CRYSTAL LAKE – The chemistry between Crystal Lake South junior setter Cassy Sivesind and junior outside hitter Carly Nolan has been brewing for years.
Friends since preschool and long-time neighbors, Sivesind and Nolan have grown up together on and off the volleyball court. That camaraderie has paid off this season for the Gators and was on display Thursday against Cary-Grove.
Nolan was an unstoppable force, going up against a shorter Trojans front line. Sivesind found Nolan early and often against C-G, setting up Nolan for the winning kill in Game 1 and their connection didn’t stop there. Nolan’s three kills late in the second game – part of her match-high 11 kills – gave the Gators a five-point lead en route to the 25-15, 25-21 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win.
“We always connect and think the same thing,” Sivesind said of Nolan. “It’s just so easy. I can set her anything and she’ll just put it away for me.”
The Gators (9-1 overall, 3-0 FVC Valley) needed impressive runs in both games to put away the Trojans (7-2, 2-1). With Game 1 tied at 9 and Sivesind at the service line, South ripped off a 12-0 run, which finally came to an end on C-G junior outside hitter Abby Schebel’s kill.
That kill started a stretch of three kills in four points for Schebel to make it 22-12, but the deficit was too much for the young Trojans to overcome.
“We got caught in a rotation and were having a hard time siding out and they had a huge front line,” Trojans coach Patty Langanis said. “At times, you just need that pass so desperately bad and we just couldn’t shut down that serve.”
South again made a statement in Game 2, outscoring the Trojans 11-7 after C-G tied the game at 14. The Trojans couldn’t build off a good start in the second game, which they opened with an 8-4 lead. The Gators’ tough serves often forced the Trojans’ offense to run out of system with off-target passes preventing them from getting in a rhythm.
“Again, it’s that aggressive weapon,” Gators coach Jorie Fontana said. “They’ve got the ability to hit hard serving and accurate. When I tell them to serve to this person or serve to this spot, they’re going to hit it which is great.”
With 5-foot-8 C-G blockers regularly going up against Nolan, Langanis said the strategy was to try and get touches on Nolan’s shots. Unfortunately for the Trojans, Nolan did a good job most of the match working around those blocks. The Gators represented a tough matchup, especially with hitters Avalon Nero (eight kills) and Nicole Slimko (four kills) also finding ways to beat C-G’s defense.
“Cassy will look at me and she’ll be like, ‘Short blocker,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah,’” Nolan said of taking advantage of shorter blockers. “ ... We focused on us a lot. We made them make errors.”