SANDWICH – With Kaneland trailing by eight points in Game 2 against Plano, Kaneland coach Kerri McCastland called her second and final timeout and was very unhappy, according to her team.
What was missing after the Knights cruised to a win in game one? The immediate answer from every player on the Knights was “motivation”.
After the timeout, Kaneland played like a more experienced team rather than a roster that features only one senior. The Knights (14-15) rallied back from the eight-point deficit, winning 13 of the final 17 points to complete a 25-19, 25-23 victory over Plano in the Class 3A Sandwich Regional semifinals
Kaneland advances to the regional finals and will face Sycamore at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Knights have defeated Sycamore twice in Northern Illinois Big 12 East play this season.
“I think it was good we didn’t give up after we struggled,” senior Jenny Lubic said. “We didn’t stop fighting and didn’t stop believing.”
The apparent motivational issues that appeared in Game 2, were basically non existent to start the match.
After Plano pulled to within one point, 15-14, the Knights won six consecutive points, capped off by back-to-back kills from Ellie Dunn and an ace from McKenzie McMullan. Dunn, a Ball State recruit, recorded 11 kills in game one, 14 for the game, and was a force from every spot on the front row.
Kaneland jumped out to a 5-2 lead in game two, but Plano’s aggressiveness got the Knights out of serve-receive, and the Reapers reeled off nine consecutive points before two kills from Vanessa Gould stopped the streak.
Gould would provide the offensive spark down the stretch as the Kaneland sophomore put down four kills in the final six points and recorded a tremendous dig that eventually resulted in a Plano hitting error on the other side of the net.
Acknowledging that a similar effort Thursday against Sycamore might not produce the same results, Kaneland’s players, who responded to questions together as a team, were quick to answer how they planned to keep that motivation throughout.
“Knowing what our goal is and where we want to get to,” they said. “Playing for what we want. What’s at stake.”