Girls volleyball: Stevenson upends Palatine for regional title
After falling in three sets just 10 days ago to Palatine on the Pirates' home court, Stevenson's girls volleyball team returned on Thursday night to that same floor.
But the Patriots came back with a new mentality in the Class 4A Palatine regional championship.
"We learned from that night that you have to come into every match with high intensity," said Pats senior Lily Cozzi. "You've got to play like it's your last match."
"We really amped up our game (from that last time)," said senior setter Grace Tully. "We had more desire and energy to win because it's the postseason now and every game counts."
Tully was counting on all her hitters on Thursday, handing out 24 assists as No. 3-seed Stevenson posted a 25-21, 25-17 triumph over the sixth-seeded seeded Pirates (24-13).
The Patriots (23-14) will face No. 2 Cary-Grove (24-9) on Monday in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal of the Class 4A Warren sectional.
Sophomore Amanda Holsen led the Patriots with 12 kills followed by Cozzi (9), Makayla Uremovich (4), Emma Potocki (2) and Tully (2) as Stevenson earned its 28th regional title in program history and ninth in 10 years under coach Tim Crow.
"It was awesome," Cozzi added. "I think everyone really played well. The last time (vs. Palatine) we were really off. It was great to see it all come together this time."
Uremovich (illness) did not play the last time. Wednesday was her first time practicing in four days.
"A lot of our success tonight was Mikayla hitting on the right side," Crow said. "She is the 'X' factor for us from an offensive standpoint.
"When she is getting good swings, not even kills, but good swings, good things are going to happen for us."
The first set was tied at 8-8 when Stevenson took the lead for good on Tully's second attack.
"Grace was awesome distributing the ball and with her 5 aces, so was really dialed in. She was focused and also making good decisions with the volleyball," Crow said. "Amanda was Amanda like she is normally is for us. Being only a sophomore, it's amazing how aggressive and poised she is. And Lily did a good job hitting the ball down line."
A net call followed by Holson's kill made it 12-9.
The lead grew to 5 points but Palatine got to within 22-20 on one of Emily Campe's match-high 13 kills.
"Our girls did a good job weathering the storm of their big right side hitter (Virginia Tech-bound Campe)," Crow said. "You can't stop her. You just try to limit some things."
The Pats closed out the set with 3 of the next 4 points including Holsen's set-winning kill.
Tully got the Patriots rolling in Set 2 with 5 straight points including 2 aces for a 7- 2 lead from which Palatine would never recover.
Tully finished with 5 aces followed by Abby Keevins (3) and Emerson Kouri (1).
"We knew coming in that we needed to win serve/serve receive but we didn't," said Palatine coach Dan Gavin. "That was a main focus of ours but Stevenson took it to us. They really kind of dominated in that area which is a pretty good predictor of who is going to win a match.
"Stevenson did a good job spreading the ball around. I thought we had them out of system a few times but then we didn't capitalize so that took a lot of pressure off them."
Sarah Elischer added 6 kills for Palatine while Karina Szafraniec (1 block) and Jillian Smith (7 digs, 1 block) each had one. Setter Allison Drake handed out 19 assists. Brianna Squeo and Julie Garcia each had an ace.
"We had an outstanding group of girls," Gavin said. "I don't think we were really on anyone's radar to start the season and we ended up with 24 wins. But I don't really like to measure the success of a season in terms of wins and losses. The important thing is I couldn't ask for better kids and I couldn't be prouder of them."