ST. CHARLES – St. Charles North girls volleyball coach Lindsey Hawkins has waited five years to finally beat her former coach, Jennie Kull, and alma mater, St. Charles East.
So it probably was fitting that Hawkins and the North Stars had to go the distance to defeat the Saints, 25-17, 23-25, 25-22, in Upstate Eight Conference River Division action Tuesday on North’s homecourt.
“We were trying to treat this game like it is any other game, and we needed to take care of business,” Hawkins said after her first win over the Saints. “I have so much respect for Jennie, that program and that school. They clearly have a tradition of winning, and we want to emulate that tradition, as well.”
“I think Lindsey does a phenomenal job,” Kull said of her former player. “She is a quality act. I am proud of her. I am proud of what she has built. Yes, you love to win, but when they are not playing us, I’m rooting for her.
“North did a nice job. They are a very good team. They have a lot of different weapons. They deserved to win.”
The win on North’s “Volley for the Cure” night keeps the North Stars perfect, moving to 11-0 overall, 2-0 in the River. East falls to 12-4, 1-1.
“The East game always means a little bit more,” said the North Stars’ Taylor Krage, who had a match-high 16 kills. “It’s a great game to win, but it’s not the state championship.”
East took its only lead of Game 1, 15-14, before North roared back to score 10 of the next 13 points, thanks to a kill by Jaclyn Taylor, two kills from the Northern Illinois-bound Krage, an Alex Seavey service winner, a Taryn DalDegan kill and – on game point – a kill by Emily Carroll.
Game 2 went back-and-forth with 11 lead changes, the final when East’s Mikaela Mosquera had a kill to give East a 23-22 lead. Anne Hughes followed with a service winner to bring East to game point, but a Saints error kept North in the game at 24-23.
However, East closed out Game 2 with another Mosquera kill.
“In a gym like this, with the young and inexperienced kids I have, I was very pleased with how we battled and won that game,” Kull said. “Every single time we step out [on the court], I see us making great strides.”
“Losing a game was not our plan,” Krage said. “We would have loved to win in two. But we are willing to fight, and we fought back.”
With momentum on its side, East took leads of 2-0, 4-2, 5-3 and 7-5 early in Game 3, but could not bury North, and a lot of that inability was caused by its own mistakes.
“The first eight points of the third game were our errors, missing three serves,” Kull said. “But that is what you live and die by in volleyball.”
Game 3 was tight all the way, with a kill by East’s Dana Voltolina tying the score at 14.
But North ran off the next five points, as Carroll had a kill and service winner and Claire Anderson a block-kill.
“Our team has really been working on its resiliency, getting in the gym every single day and working to get better,” Hawkins said. “That helps in matches like this. We are not going to give up.”
The Saints weren’t giving up, either. Voltolina and Meagan Smith responded with back-to-back kills to cut North’s lead to 19-17, and Mosquera’s kill cut the deficit to 20-19.
Krage kills gave the North Stars leads of 22-20 and 23-21, and the last of her 16 kills was the match winner.
“Senior leadership,” Hawkins said when asked what helped her team pull through in Game 3. “Seavey, Krage and Sydney Wohlert. They want this. They have been dreaming about this since they started here. They have been with me a long time. They are some of the best senior leaders I’ve ever had.
“They dug deep and stayed calm. They did not let the atmosphere rattle them. They rely on each other. That is the biggest thing.”
Daley Krage backed up her sister with six kills, while Anderson and Taylor added four apiece.
Mosquera led East with 11 kills, while Megan Schildmeyer, Voltolina and Smith had nine each. Hughes added 21 digs and two aces.
“I was really proud of my kids,” Kull said. “They played very well. Everybody has said ‘This team is down’ or whatever, and we’re not. We eliminate those errors [in Game 3], the young mistakes we made, we get that all done by end of the season and it’s going to get better.”