HUNTLEY – Last weekend at the Asics Preview, facing a small deficit to Lincoln-Way Central, Crystal Lake South’s girls volleyball team bent just enough to drop the match and let the tournament title slip away.
The days since have been all business for South. The passing needed to be more crisp. The offense, already balanced, needed to be more multidimensional. The mental lapses, no matter how small, had to stop.
It was a retooled and refocused Gators team that faced off against rival Huntley on Tuesday, and the adjustments were clear. South used a precise attack and efficient defense to defeat the Red Raiders, 25-17, 25-15, in Fox Valley Conference Valley Division play and retain sole possession of the division lead at almost the midseason mark.
Should the Gators best Prairie Ridge on Thursday, they will be the only undefeated team in the FVC Valley at 6-0 with as many division games left.
“We finished strong, and we couldn’t do that last weekend,” South junior setter Cassy Sivesind said. “This was a big win for us.”
South (15-2 overall, 5-0 FVC Valley) jumped on the Raiders immediately. Three kills from senior outside hitter Avalon Nero and kills from middle hitter Nicole Slimko and outside Carly Nolan helped South take a 7-1 advantage in Game 1. Huntley (9-4, 3-2) answered with a six-point run to knot the score at 7 that included three kills from outside hitter Erin Lyman, and took its only lead of the first game, 10-9, on another Lyman kill.
South tied it on a Raiders service error and a back row kill from Nolan. The Gators never flinched again.
South’s serve-receive made Sivesind’s night much easier, and she spread the ball evenly between Slimko (seven kills), Nolan (six) and Nero (four). Slimko and fellow middle Emma Burkle put up a block that forced four Huntley errors during a 9-4 sequence to help run South’s advantage to 20-15.
“[Monday] at practice we worked a lot on connection – connecting with hitters, connecting with passes – and it showed tonight,” Nolan said.
“Most of it is just good communication,” South libero Hannah Wilson said. “I think we dug up everything we could and got touches.”
Huntley led briefly, 6-5, in Game 2 on a setter dump from Kelsey DeWulf and a South hitting error. But kills from Nolan and Burkle and a Nero ace helped South regain control and cruise.
“It was disappointing,” Huntley coach Karen Liss said. “This was a huge game for us. They prepared very hard the last two days in practice, so to come out with no intensity … was disappointing.”