Girls volleyball: CL South downs Huntley to cap 17-1 FVC season
With the postseason starting next week and the Fox Valley Conference championship already clinched, Crystal Lake South coach Jorie Fontana reminded her team about the importance of Thursday's volleyball match against Huntley.
"We talked a lot about the toughness we need headed into the postseason and having our minds in the moment," Fontana said. "We knew [Huntley] was going to have a lot of emotion, so we focused a lot on keeping our energy and our play consistent.
"I thought they did a really great job."
The Red Raiders didn't make it easy on the Gators, who trailed late in both sets but rallied for a 25-22, 26-24 win in the regular-season finale for both teams.
South, which captured the FVC title last week, moved to 29-5 and finished 17-1 in FVC play. Huntley (24-11), which was 14-2 over its past 16 matches entering Thursday, was runner-up to the Gators in the FVC with a 13-5 record.
South, a No. 2 seed, meets No. 9-seeded Harvard in the Class 3A Boylan Regional semifinals Tuesday. Their next win will give the Gators their first 30-win season since they accomplished the feat in 2013 and 2014.
South hasn't won a regional title since 2015.
"It's bittersweet, knowing that we're coming so close to the end," Gators senior outside hitter Jessie Proszenyak said. "I just wanted to pour my heart onto this court and play for everyone, and everyone else wanted to do the same. I'm feeling great, and I just know the entire team is feeling great. We're just ready to keep winning."
Both sets were close throughout, with the Gators and Raiders tied at 22 and 23 in the second set. Huntley staved off the first match point for South at 24-23 with a kill by senior outside hitter Lauren Bauer, but the Gators finished it on a kill by senior middle blocker Mia Regillio and a mishit at the net by the Raiders.
Regillio came alive with all four of her kills in the second set.
"We were excited," Regillio said. "This is the last conference [match], we wanted to finish strong, and we were so excited to win this one. It's a big one for us. I was just feeling the excitement, and I knew we were so close to finishing.
"It was right there."
Proszenyak finished with a match-best nine kills for the Gators and added eight digs. Gabby Wire had seven kills and seven digs, and Regillio and Morgan Jones each had four kills. Emma Stowasser had 12 assists, Faith Gruenwald had 11 assists, and Megan Langdon added two blocks. Alyssa Zagroba had 12 digs to lead the defense.
Huntley had leads of 21-19 in the first set and 23-20 in the second set but could not put away the Gators.
"There were a few plays that deflated us a little bit and really took some of that momentum that we were working so hard to bring back, and that hurt," Raiders coach Karen Naymola said. "There were two plays where we let the ball land without anyone even going for it, and that's not like us."
Still, Naymola said she has seen a lot of improvement throughout the year as the Raiders now switch their focus to the playoffs. No. 3-seeded Huntley will play the winner of No. 13 Dundee-Crown and No. 19 Elgin in a Class 4A Huntley Regional semifinal Tuesday.
"When we're passing well, our offense is unstoppable," Naymola said. "When our sever receive struggles a bit, we have a harder time putting the ball away. But even today, there were some times we didn't get [setter] Maggie [Duyos] a good pass and our hitters were able to do something with it. Two weeks ago, we would have been putting those balls out of bounds.
"As much as we would have loved to beat South and win the conference, in the end, our season starts tomorrow."
Duyos finished with 23 assists and 15 digs, Luma Acevedo had 20 digs, and Avary Deblieck had a team-high seven kills for Huntley. Lauren Bauer had five kills, while Ally Panzloff and Georgia Watson had four kills apiece.