BATAVIA – St. Charles North tussled with Batavia throughout Tuesday’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division girls volleyball opener.
Double-digit leads? Forget about them.
Peace of mind? Not until the final point dropped.
North may have maintained its hot start with a 25-23, 25-21 sweep, but not before exhaling first. And then quickly moving on.
“We’re always training to be ready for that next match,” North Stars middle blocker Emily Carroll said. “Even though we’re 10-0, we never settle. It’s not good enough for us. We always try to be better, and better ourselves for the next match.”
Batavia (5-5, 0-1 UEC River) served aggressively and kept North out of sync for much of the night, a rarity for the North Stars (10-0, 1-0) to date.
“That was our goal,” Bulldogs coach Lori Trippi-Payne said, “but sometimes out of system is not a good thing, because Taylor Krage can hit in the back row.”
Krage, the North Stars’ Northern Illinois-bound senior outside hitter, smacked a match-high nine kills, including one to seal Game 1. Sophia DuVall (five kills) and Daley Krage (four) were next.
Audrey Faulhaber (nine digs), Maddie Jaudon (eight) and Heather Meyer (eight) challenged North’s hitters, helping Batavia lead as late as 23-22 in the first game and 18-16 in the second.
Ultimately, North persevered with a focus that has wowed coach Lindsey Hawkins since summer workouts, when players pledged their accountability to each other and to making the most of an experienced, talented core.
“We have a lot of girls that stay calm,” Taylor Krage said. “We don’t really freak out on the court, and we kind of just keep playing volleyball no matter what.”
Of course, part of playing volleyball entails what some bystanders would consider “freaking out.” At least after big points.
A pregame announcement warned a boisterous “Pack The Place” crowd against the use of artificial noisemakers. Naturally, it didn’t apply to the North Stars or Bulldogs.
Eventually, North used that encouragement to its advantage at the net, as Claire Anderson, Jaclyn Taylor, Carroll and DuVall stood up to a Batavia attack led by Meyer (eight kills) and Shea Stanley (six).
“Honestly, just being loud and cheering each other on just motivates everyone to get that block,” Carroll said.
Sydney Wohlert had 15 assists for North, while Audrey Faulhaber had 22 for Batavia.
The Bulldogs host defending 4A state champion Benet on Thursday. Batavia counts losses to 3A champ St. Francis and perennial power Providence, as well, and hopes the North result will continue its bid to be a force down the stretch.
“Our schedule, we play that tough schedule to get ready for games like this, and we stayed in there with them, but I thought that we could have done even a little better tonight,” Trippi-Payne said. “What can you do, right? They’re a good team.”