ELMHURST – For nearly a month, the St. Charles East girls volleyball team has been playing without injured middle-hitter Mikaela Mosquera, who was recovering from a concussion.
Mosquera returned to the lineup in East’s playoff opener against Glenbard East on Tuesday and immediately made her presence felt, helping the Saints to a relatively easy 25-14, 25-12 win in an IHSA Class 4A York Regional semifinal against Glenbard East that took only 31 minutes to finish.
East’s 25-14, 25-12 win advances the Saints to Thursday’s regional final against York, which defeated Larkin in the other semifinal.
“After [Mosquera] had those first couple of blocks, all of the girls were like, ‘OK, we remember that,’ ” East coach Jennie Kull said. “It’s really nice on the defensive end to have her back. The good news for us was that every single girl played and it wasn’t that much of a difference.”
In previous years, Kull was at the helm of East teams that had star power that carried them to state tournament appearances. This year’s Saints squad is young and deep, evidenced by a near flawless run after Mosquera went down that resulted in East winning a share of the UEC River crown with St. Charles North.
With Mosquera back in the lineup, East looked a little unsure of itself in the early going against Glenbard East, finding itself tied at 11 before running off 14 of the next 17 points to take the first game 25-14. The Saints’ ball movement opened up opportunities for Mosquera and Carly Jimenez (match-high 24 assists) before Emily Vitel ended the game with three aces.
Along with Mosquera, fellow middle hitter Ashley Bullock returned from injury, providing quite the shot in the arm for what East hopes is a deep playoff run. Mosquera fit right in despite only returning to practice Sunday.
“It was great tonight because everyone contributed,” Mosquera said. “When I was out, I tried to help all of the other middles as much as I could. It’s just been great with everyone contributing.”
East’s depth was on full display in Game 2 as Kull was able to get nearly the entire bench on the floor. The Saints roared out to a 19-9 lead with points from Bullock, Mosquera, Dana Voltolina, Meagan Smith and Alex Mazanke. Reserve Ally Watson helped finish off the Rams with a block and pair of points to help East take Game 2, 25-12.
“We started off slow today, which is understandable because we are still young and it’s a big environment,” Kull said. “Now we have that under our belt, we can go from here. With Ashley back, too, it’s just two more weapons to have back on the floor.”
Mosquera, who led East with six kills, admitted that it took her and the team a few points to get used to each other again.
“We had a slow start but we picked it up and started playing our game we did well,” Mosquera said. “Going forward our depth is going to be huge for us because we know that anyone can step off the bench it tight situations and play well.”