ELGIN – The reasons for St. Charles North’s loss during the opening semifinal of Tuesday’s 4A Larkin girls volleyball sectional were not completely unseen.
Still, North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins pinpointed something intangible as the turning point after top-seeded Glenbard West scored a 25-23, 25-19 sweep.
“It’s knowing what’s at stake,” Hawkins said, “and we’ve got a lot of young girls out there and they’ve never been in this situation before. I know our seniors have really tried to carry them and tried to prep them for this. I think the young kids still responded well. That’s a good Glenbard West team.”
Recovering from a 20-15 hole in the first game, Glenbard West (36-2) continued its resurgence, tying the single-season school record for victories shared by the 1983 state championship team. Until this fall, the Hilltoppers hadn’t won a West Suburban Silver title since 1984 or captured a regional title since 1985.
A pair of four-year starters, Amanda Perry and Caleigh Ryan, have been especially satisfied with the climb, but classmate Megan Wagner has shown equal poise. A year after keeping her team afloat in a three-game regional championship loss to the North Stars (24-15), Wagner smacked a match high 17 kills to help eliminate them.
“We’ve come really far, I think,” Wagner said. “Our seniors really want it this year. Last year, I don’t think we really grasped the idea of how far we could really go if we wanted to. So this year, we really understand that and we’re ready to move on.”
Fourth-seeded North surged to an early lead by serving the Hilltoppers out of system and responding with solid back row defense, which complemented an already-vaunted block.
When Glenbard West worked around challenges from Alex Stone (six blocks) and Emily Carroll (three), the North Stars’ Alex Busch (23 digs) often was ready. Ditto for Renee Rhoades and Sydney Wohlert, who collected 12 digs apiece.
Emily Belz (13 assists) and Taylor Krage (nine kills) paced the attack for North, which was as close as 21-18 in the second game.
“These girls have fought, clawed their way throughout the whole entire season,” said Hawkins, who missed much of the year while on maternity leave but returned in time for the postseason. “I knew they had it in them to come out with that kind of a start, and they really did a great job. Our seniors led the way the whole time. They did a fantastic job.”