SANDWICH – The Kaneland girls volleyball team gave Sycamore a scare Thursday but the Knights’ conference rival regrouped to end Kaneland’s season.
The Knights prevailed 25-17 in Game 1, but Sycamore won Game 2 convincingly, 25-12, and then pulled away late in Game 3 with a 25-18 decision to win the IHSA Class 3A Sandwich Regional title and advance to Tuesday’s Class 3A Princeton Sectional semifinal against Dunlap.
“I’m very proud of them because they did a great job and we got great leadership when we needed it to happen,” Sycamore coach Eric Nore said. “We’ll see what happens now from here. We’re just happy we’re moving on. Our mantra was that we could play in November, and that’s all that matters now.”
Sycamore junior Mattie Hayes (seven kills) wasn’t sure what the reason was for the Spartans’ slow start, but she was enthusiastic about how the team responded.
“I guess we just really weren’t as focused as we needed to be,” she said. “We had a talk after the first game and we made sure we adjusted and played more as a team. Our offense and defense were much better.”
Nore also said the slick gym floor played a factor.
“We learned right away that this floor is a challenge,” he said. “I made a crack at [Kaneland coach Kerri McCastland] that it’s OK because we trained on a slick floor and she was like, ‘What?’ But we did, we trained a little bit with slick conditions.”
The big victory in Game 2 seemingly carried over to the deciding game as Sycamore jumped ahead 3-0 before Kaneland responded with a rally of its own to make a match of it.
Kaneland sophomore Vanessa Gould sparked the Knights, scoring on back-to-back serves to pull the Knights ahead, 8-7. The Knights maintained that lead up to 12-11 before the Spartans took control for good by scoring four straight to pull ahead, 16-12. The Knights wouldn’t get to within two points the rest of the night.
“We just were really pumped up after winning that second game and having fun,” Sycamore senior Christina Dailey said. “We seem to play much better when we’re having fun.”
Jenee Carlson (13 digs) and Kendra Larson (26 assists) had big efforts for the winners while Mallory Wolf and Gabby Wenger each added five kills in the matchup of Northern Illinois Big 12 East foes.
“We didn’t have the best record this season, but we knew once the playoffs started we’d be 0-0,” Dailey said. “We’re now 3-0, and it feels great.”
Kaneland concluded its first season under McCastland at 14-16.