ELMHURST – Chloe Rojas should have been physically and emotionally spent at the end of a grueling, three-game match, but instead the St. Charles East junior libero sounded energized.
Moments after East survived a huge scare Thursday from host York in the Saints’ 28-26, 19-25, 25-23 win in the IHSA Class 4A regional championship game, Rojas wondered what a victory this hard-fought might mean for the Saints going forward.
“It just makes me so excited to see what else we can do,” Rojas said. “If we can make it through that game, what else can we do? We can do anything. It just adds to how well we’ve been doing this season. We have not had one point where we haven’t given our best.”
East (31-6) advances to face crosstown rival St. Charles North in the second match of Tuesday’s Geneva Sectional semifinal doubleheader.
Longtime Saints coach Jennie Kull has won a regional title in all but one of her seasons at East but York came awfully close to doubling that total. East trailed, 23-21, in decisive Game 3 before the Saints showed enough fortitude to save their season.
Senior Dana Voltolina’s kill drew East within 23-22 for a side-out, and Rojas then served three straight points to end it. A Rojas ace made it 24-23 Saints, and the final point came when York miscommunicated on an in-between ball that crashed to the floor.
Rojas said her thought process when she took over the serve with East trailing, 23-22, was all about her orange and black-clad teammates.
“I was just thinking this is about my team, this isn’t even about me,” Rojas said. “I’m not a senior, it’s not even my senior year, so I’m doing this for my seniors and for my team, so I just have to make sure I do whatever I can to keep this season going, and keep their last season going.”
It was a banner statistical night for a few Saints, but Kull noted some intangible moments that she thought were crucial.
“Annie Hughes, huge heart – in the timeout, she made some great, great comments and really led like a captain should,” Kull said. “And then I was really pleased with Ashley Bullock. That was a huge kill by her [to bring East within 12-11 in Game 3]. That was big. I’m thankful that we got through.”
York (23-12) piled up 18 blocks, which coach Patty Iverson thought should have been enough to propel her team to the title.
“That’s our best blocking match ever but we didn’t come up with some of the kills we needed to come up with, and we made a couple hitting errors that we shouldn’t have made,” Iverson said.
Senior setter Carly Jimenez had 40 assists and 13 digs, Voltolina had 10 kills, Meagan Smith added 10 kills and Hughes added 29 digs for East.
The left-handed Voltolina was especially productive with a cluster of kills late in Game 1 as East clawed back from a 22-18 deficit to win, capped by Smith’s kill.
“I think it’s honestly amazing,” Voltolina said of the Saints’ win. “It’s great to be a part of this team and program. I love my team.”