Girls volleyball: Barrington cruises to 3rd straight state appearance

Barrington girls volleyball coach Michelle Jakubowski says her team has had a 'surfer mentality' for its motto this season.

"It's been about staying in the present and enjoying the ride you're on." she explained.

Well, the Fillies will be riding some similar waves again.

For the third straight season, they have landed in the Class 4A final four where they took third place the last two seasons.

Barrington (35-5) made the trip to Normal become the norm with a 25-11, 25-21 victory over Libertyville (30-10) on Friday night at the Fillies own Class 4A supersectional.

"We have 12 seniors and they have enjoyed every minute," Jakubowski said. "That's what you're supposed to do in life: enjoy every minute with your teammates. It's about the team and these girls all put team first."

The Fillies put their stamp on the match quickly, establishing an 8-3 lead behind the serve of senior Sarah Jensen (10 points, 5 digs), who made up a 3-1 deficit with 7 straight points.

Senior Gwen Adler served for the final 5 points for a 24-20 lead before classmate Jenna Meitzler's block ended the set at 25-11.

"It's so exciting," Meitzler said. "We are ready to take it. I want to go to the state championship and I know all these girls do, too."

The Fillies will face Mother McAuley (also 35-5) in Friday's' 8:30 p.m. semifinal at Illinois State.

"Credit to Barrington," said Libertyville setter Jamie Marquardt who will join Meitzler at Iowa next year. "They're so solid with their block, their setting and their defense. I have some teammates from my club team on their team so I hope they kill it at state next weekend."

"It's not so easy when you are the hunted," said Jakubowski, whose team went 9-0 at home this fall. "When everyone says you are going downstate, sometimes that puts a lot of pressure on you. But these girls have handled it so well with the idea of 'if we crash, we're going to get right back up and try again.'"

Libertyville tried to make a run at set 2 which was tied on the first 8 points and also at 11 and 14 before Barrington pulled away at 18-14 with 3 service points from Meitzler.

The Wildcats got to within 23-20 and 24-21 before Mietzler slammed down the match-winner on a beautiful leaping quick set from Adler at the middle of the net.

Senior Hope Regas led the Mid-Suburban champs with 6 kills while Meitzler and Berkeley Ploder had 4.

"We prepared a lot by watching film and really working on some of our weaknesses," said Ploder, who will study business and play volleyball at Georgetown. "We've also been working on our mental game. We meditate every day after practice, before matches and really just focus on our breathing. There were a ton of fans out here tonight so that makes us more anxious, but I think we got it under control really well."

Meitzler and Whitney Mall each added 3 kills for the Fillies while Molly Kozak had 5 digs.

"It's amazing," added Dayton basketball recruit Molly O'Riordan, who will make her first trip to the finals with the Fillies volleyball team after playing on the same floor as a sophomore in the basketball state finals. "It's definitely a privilege and I'm so grateful to be a part of this team."

Libertyville coach Greg Loika knows his players will always remember being a part of one of the finest seasons in program history.

"We have a lot of tears here now because we have 10 seniors who won't be able to go to practice (Saturday)," he said. "But eventually they're going to feel real proud that they were here playing against an amazing team that has been downstate three times because of the skill and the team that they are.

"They (Barringtonb) don't give you a lot of room for error and we just didn't have our best ballgame across the board. I think set 2 was more indicative of how they can play when they settled down."

Marquardt (11 assists, 8 digs, 1 kill), Hannah Fleming (5 kills, 8 digs), Kylie Hughes (4 kills) and Charlie Fleegle (9 digs) helped lead the Wildcats.

"Going into this season we lost nine seniors and we knew it was going to be a rebuilding process," said Marquardt, who switched to a setter for her high school team. "We had 10 seniors this year and we were just playing every day to make the season last as long as we could. I've been playing with some of these girls since middle school and some even before that. So to be able to finish it with them here in supersectional is really special. We weren't supposed to be this good but we really worked hard all season and it showed on the court."

"I think Jamie was trying to will us to score some points to keep the match going even when it wasn't going our way," Loika added. "She is such a leader, such a fighter. She has given up her craft to be a setter for us for four years and she was really one of the best statistically we've ever had, That is not only an amazing testament to her skill but also to her unselfishness to the program and team. That's huge and hard to replace."

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