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Sports

Volleyball: Abby Graham, St. Charles North out to make more history at state

Nationally-ranked Minooka a huge challenge in Class 4A semifinal

St. Charles North hitter Abby Graham celebrates a point in the North Stars' 25-1-, 25-10 win over Hononegah in a sectional semifinal Oct. 30 in DeKalb.
St. Charles North hitter Abby Graham celebrates a point in the North Stars' 25-1-, 25-10 win over Hononegah in a sectional semifinal Oct. 30 in DeKalb.

St. Charles North volleyball coach Lindsey Hawkins understands that win No. 37 would be another historic step for the program.

Her hope, though, is that No. 37 occurs on Friday.

The North Stars (36-3) enter Friday’s 7 p.m. Class 4A state semifinal against Minooka as decided underdogs. The Indians (38-2) finished second in 4A last season, and have only lost once since dropping a three-set match against Marist on Aug. 26.

“They are an excellent team,” Hawkins said. “They kind of remind me of a college team. They have a lot of different weapons. Their defense is solid. It’s going to take us playing pretty flawless and we will have to put up a pretty big block in order to compete with them, but one of our strongest suits is we block well and serve very aggressively and able to get teams out of system. We’re looking to play our best volleyball these next couple of days and show people what we got.”

The North Stars’ 10 seniors have set a new standard for the program. In a season of firsts, St. Charles seeks one more first – the program’s first state title. They beat St. Charles East to win the program’s first sectional title, avenged a regular-season loss by knocking off Downers Grove North for their first trip to state, and already are assured of leaving Normal with their first state trophy.

Through the years, St. Charles North senior outside hitter Abby Graham said the seniors watched St. Charles East and Geneva produce memorable seasons. Graham said the North Stars’ seniors were motivated to make their mark.

“We’re making history,” Graham said. “We have never been to state, to know that we’re going to come back, all the seniors, and see this on the walls at our gym is so amazing that we did this together. That was our goal from the beginning of the season.”

Although not as heralded as some of her local counterparts, Graham’s been the lynchpin throughout St. Charles North’s playoff run.

She had three kills and 12 digs against St. Charles East, then tallied nine kills and 21 digs to enter the state semifinal with impressive season totals of 213 kills, 221 digs, 43 blocks and 16 aces.

“In these playoffs, Abby Graham has been amazing, the leader of this team,” Hawkins said. “When it came down to it at the supersectional, she was the one who stepped up and the girls rallied around her.”

The North Stars have a difficult road to the state title.  Minooka’s filled with experience and next-level players. Ranked No. 22 in the country by Prep Volleyball.com, the Indians defeated nationally-ranked Benet in a sectional championship. Senior outside hitter Alli Papesh, a Dayton recruit, leads a power-packed offense with 336 kills to go with 196 digs and 72 blocks. Kansas State-bound Holly Bonde has 252kills, 204 digs and 122 blocks, while Raquel Perinar, a Tennessee recruit, is second with 327 kills.

Graham, an uncommitted recruit, said the North Stars welcome the opportunity to play Minooka. If they beat the Indians, they will play the winner of the Marist and Crystal Lake Central semifinal on Saturday in the 4Afinal. Marist (39-1) is currently ranked second in the country.

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