Girls volleyball: Conant survives Hoffman Estates rally

  • Conant's Sara Gornikowski tries to get the ball over the net as Hoffman Estates' Karlee Hendricks and Izzy Troyer defend the territory in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday.

    Conant's Sara Gornikowski tries to get the ball over the net as Hoffman Estates' Karlee Hendricks and Izzy Troyer defend the territory in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates' Charlotte McGrath saves a ball over her head against Conant in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

    Hoffman Estates' Charlotte McGrath saves a ball over her head against Conant in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates' Jillian Cuartero slams the ball against Conant's Angelica Sudol in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

    Hoffman Estates' Jillian Cuartero slams the ball against Conant's Angelica Sudol in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Conant's Farah Cisse hits against Hoffman Estates' Maya Schmidt in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

    Conant's Farah Cisse hits against Hoffman Estates' Maya Schmidt in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Conant's Emily Ytsen tries to block Hoffman Estates' Maya Schmidt in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

    Conant's Emily Ytsen tries to block Hoffman Estates' Maya Schmidt in a girls volleyball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/15/2021 9:52 PM

Conant's girls volleyball team raced to 9-1 starts in each set of its Mid-Suburban West season opener at Hoffman Estates on Wednesday night.

But there was still plenty of drama left for the end as the pesky Hawks actually rallied for a 3-point lead late in the second set before the Cougars survived for a 25-15, 28-26 triumph.

 

A block by Karlee Hendricks gave Hoffman a 22-19 advantage in the decisive set but the visitors (9-7, 1-0) got a kill from Farah Cisse to tie it at 23-23.

Cisse was hardly through for the evening.

Following a time out by Hoffman coach Pat Moran, the Cougars' senior outside hitter came right back with another kill to give her team its first lead at 24-23 since 13-12.

A tip kill by Angelica Sudol put Conant back into a 25-25 tie. A service error gave Hoffman its last lead at 26-25.

Cisse's kill, off another set from sophomore Gianna Spekta, tied it 26. The Hawks nudged ahead 27-26 on a hitting error by Hoffman before Cisse went up for another set from Spekta and showed her finesse with a tip over the block for her match-high tenth kill.

"Towards the end of the match, Farah came up clutch for us," said Conant coach Drewann Pancratz. "We kept feeding her the ball and she did the job."

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"She (Spekta) works hard to get those balls to me and that really helps us," Cisse said. "Sometimes we do give up at the end of sets but we got out of that rut and we got the win. We had energy and we had fans cheering for us. I'm proud of our team."

So was Pancratz.

"I know Farah put it away at the end but overall it was a great team win," Pancratz said. "Emily Ytsen played huge at the net with lots of blocks (4 solo). Our setter (Spekta, who had 9 digs and 2 aces) really moved the ball around very well. And our libero, Jiya (Patel, who had 13 digs) is an animal in the back row. She picks up everything for us."

Ytsen and Sara Gornikowski each put down 4 kills for the Cougars.

The Hawks (8-9, 0-2) were led on attack by Abby Major (6 kills) and Hendricks (4) while Chloe Cruz (13 digs) and Izzy Troyer (10 digs) sparked the back row. Setter Charlotte McGrath handed out 14 assists (59-of-60).

"A lot of credit to Pat's group," Pancratz added. "They got fired up and fought back hard."

"I'm not sure exactly why we didn't get off to better starts in either set," Moran said. "But that was the difference in both sets, especially the first. I was really proud of the way our girls battled back in the second set. They earned that comeback. Jillian (Cuatero) was serving great (14-of-15, 5 aces)."

Cuatero stepped to the service line with her team down 13-5 and when she left, the Hawks led 15-13.

"But Conant had some good runs, too, in that set and played some good defense," Moran said. "It was a total team effort for us to come back. Obviously I wish we could have completed it. But the kids didn't put their heads down and roll over. They gave it everything. Those two starts in each set killed us."

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