HUNTLEY – When Erin Erb’s kill slammed to the floor to ignite her Huntley teammates Saturday afternoon, it was clear the Red Raiders were in the midst their best match of the season.
It was the first game of the championship match of Huntley’s own tournament, and the Raiders were loud and punchy against Boylan and its Penn State-bound setter, Bryanna Weiskircher. Sustaining the energy would be critical.
When Boylan eventually pushed the match to a third set and pulled out the victory, 12-25, 26-24, 25-23, to win the tournament, the Raiders were disappointed but couldn’t be distraught. Huntley showed a focus necessary at a seminal point in the season. A second-place finish couldn’t take away from that.
Marian Central finished third after losing to Huntley in three sets in the championship semifinals. Johnsburg finished sixth, Jacobs was seventh and Richmond-Burton was ninth in the 15-team tournament.
“It was a great game,” said Liss of the Raiders’ match against Boylan. “We were loud, we were intense, and it really was some of the best ball we’ve played.”
The Raiders led Game 2 against Boylan, 7-0, with Kelsey DeWulf serving and Erb and Emily Westermeyer each putting down kills. The Titans eventually got within two, 22-20, and went outside to Alexis Varga for three kills that forced the third set.
It was not unlike the run Marian Central (13-8) used to force a third game against Huntley (15-10) in the semifinals. After dropping the first set, 26-24, the Hurricanes used a 6-0 run to lead 22-17 in the second. Middle Hannah Davis served two aces during the sequence, and sophomore middle Rachel Giustino had a pivotal block to fuel the comeback.
Marian beat St. Ignatius, 24-26, 25-15, 25-18, in the third-place match.
“We did phenomenally well,” Marian coach Laura Watling said. “They believed in themselves this weekend.”
Jacobs (14-12) received big contributions from libero Kassie Kasper and middle hitter Bridget Wallenberger to help the Golden Eagles beat Glenbard North for seventh place. After three straight Fox Valley Conference Valley Division losses, the Eagles needed their 3-2 tournament showing.
“We started this season strong and then just had a lull,” Jacobs coach Lisa Dwyer said. “This was certainly a confidence builder.”
Johnsburg coach Sue Feely took her team’s 3-2 showing as a positive, too. The Skyhawks had offensive contributions from Ashly Schmitt (30 kills) and Amy Majercik (29 kills), and junior Trace Chase (14 blocks) played well at the net.
“Now we know what we need to work on,” Feely said. “We don’t have a lot of people in our conference that hit the way these teams hit or play a fast tempo like this, so it was good to see that before regionals.”
R-B coach Laura Karamitos was happy to see the Rockets play strong defensively. Libero Jenna Mazur finished with 55 digs, while outside hitter Ali Frantti picked up 43 to go with her 67 kills.
“We played a lot more balanced,” Karamitos said. “Ali did a really nice job leading her team this weekend, not only in kills and scoring points but getting the girls to play at a higher level each match. The girls are really learning a lot from Ali, and it is nice to see her in that role.”