Girls volleyball: Libertyville ousts Lake Zurich in 3 sets
The thrilling sequence in the first set of Thursday night's Class 4A Lake Zurich girls volleyball regional final took more than a few breaths away.
Libertyville senior libero Macy Schaffnit starred in it.
First, she dashed, with her back to the net, toward the baseline to keep a taut point alive. Then, after hustling back to the heart of her side's hardwood, Schaffnit fielded an MLB-fastball-esque kill attempt that should have bowled her over. It did not.
Libertyville eventually won the point.
A teammate then nearly bear-hugged the wind out of Schaffnit during the post-point celebration.
"We're a very supportive team," Schaffnit, breathing normally, said afterward.
It's also alive and well in the playoffs, after netting a 25-17, 21-25, 25-16 win against a resilient, game bunch of Lake Zurich Bears.
Libertyville (29-8), seeded third in the Warren sectional, will face second-seeded Glenbrook South (31-1) in a sectional semifinal in Gurnee at 7 p.m. Monday.
Monday is Halloween.
Libertyville's school colors are orange and black.
"We love playing volleyball on Halloween," said Wildcats coach Greg Loika, who guided Libertyville to its fifth regional championship in eight seasons.
South's Titans downed Buffalo Grove's Bison 25-19, 25-15 in the Glenbrook South regional final in Glenview on Thursday night.
Libertyville struck 5 of its 11 aces in the first set, paced by junior setter Mia Colton's 2. Schaffnit, senior outside hitter Keira Kasten and sophomore setter Jamie Marquardt had the others.
"We needed to win the serve-and-pass game, and we did that," said Loika, whose club hit a frighteningly good .400 but missed 17 serves in a 3-set defeat of Glenbrook North in a sectional semifinal on Tuesday.
"Lake Zurich," he added, "played tremendous ball, especially in transition, in the second set."
The sixth-seeded Bears (22-11), who lost in straights to Libertyville in the regular season, went up 15-11 in that set, prompting Loika to call a timeout.
Libertyville knotted it at 16 and again at 18, before going up 21-20. But a tip by Bears senior right-side hitter Baylie Parks (7 kills, 2 aces) tied it at 21 and ignited a 5-0 run to force a third set.
Bears senior outside hitter Chelsea Williams (15 kills, 5 digs) highlighted that set's close-out with a well-placed, inside-out kill to a deep corner for LZ's 23rd point.
Libertyville raced out to an 8-2 lead in the clincher, but LZ trailed only 8-7 after an ace by Williams.
Kasten (13 kills, 8 digs, 4 aces) capped an 8-3 Wildcats run with a kill to secure a 16-10 advantage for the visitors.
Kasten's final kill of the night stretched the lead to 21-14.
"We played very well in set two, putting it all together and doing what we had to do to get back in the match," said Bears coach Rachel Wiatrowski, an assistant boys volleyball coach at ... Libertyville.
"It was an absolute joy to coach this group, every single day," she added. "They're quality girls, quality athletes."
Schaffnit finished with a match-high 15 digs, and Marquardt lofted 22 assists. Junior outside hitter Hannah Fleming popped for 5 kills.
Bears senior setter Heidi Mason amassed 30 assists. Senior middle Akpevwe Akpoigbe hammered 7 kills, two more than Kayden Glisson's and Emma Barker's totals. And junior libero Madelyn Elsen and Mason led the team in digs with 12 and 8, respectively.