ALGONQUIN – Four times in the first set Saturday, Crystal Lake Central could have folded against upset-minded Catholic Memorial of Waukesha, Wisconsin, in the championship match of the 12-team Jacobs Volleyball Invitational.
Instead, the Tigers used the moment to rally together.
“It was just the moment,” sophomore libero Karina Simatos said. “We knew that it was a really big turning point. We wanted to repeat after last year. We were willing to fight and go all out.”
Central fought off four set points to take the opening set and survived for a thrilling 32-30, 19-25, 25-16 victory, collecting the hardware and tournament championship for the second year in a row.
Central finished 5-0 with wins against Marian Central, Boylan and Wheaton North in pool play. The Tigers handed Cary-Grove a 25-14, 25-19 loss in the semifinals.
“They were fired up this morning, and they kind of never looked back,” Tigers coach Lisa Brunstrum said. “I think they gained a lot of more confidence as the day went on. They didn’t give up at all, and I was really happy to see that.
“They just kept pushing for every point.”
Junior Madde Blake led the Tigers (7-1) in the victory over Catholic Memorial with 15 kills, 19 digs and three aces. After sophomore Maddy McCormick tied the opening set at 30, Blake had the last two points, receiving a bump pass from Camryn Hausler and slamming away the winner.
Blake, whose 15 kills represented a career high, said Central has gained a lot of confidence since its first loss of the season to Prairie Ridge four days ago. The Tigers won the Fox Valley Conference last year, going 15-1, and went on to place third at the Class 4A state tournament.
Central lost four starters from that team.
“We had a tough loss to Prairie Ridge, and they played phenomenal,” Blake said. “But we’re learning from our mistakes, we’re bonding and we’re clicking. We all work extremely hard for each other.”
Blake finished the day with 39 kills, 42 digs and six aces, Hausler added 34 kills, 50 assists, 28 digs, and four aces, and McCormick had 32 kills and 42 digs.
Madeline Timmerman had 18 kills, including nine kills against Catholic Memorial, eight aces and 16 blocks, Grace Levin had 76 assists and five aces, and Simatos led the team with 60 digs and seven aces. Blake and Simatos were named to the all-tournament team.
C-G placed fourth, going 2-3 and falling to Belvidere North, 25-21, 25-14, in the third-place match. Evynn Layshock led C-G (5-5) with 11 kills in the match and earned all-tournament honors, along with Jenna Splitt.
Marian Central (4-7) took sixth and went 3-2, falling to Hinsdale Central, 25-22, 25-20, in the fifth-place match.
Lilli Leggett had 33 kills and nine aces, Grace Graff passed out 93 assists, and Issy Nick had 27 kills and nine aces. Rachel Graham had 21 kills and nine aces, and Gabby Davis had 17 kills. Leggett and Graham were named to the all-tournament team.
Jacobs (2-6) was 10th, going 1-4, and fell to Batavia, 25-21, 25-23, in the ninth-place match.
Jacobs Volleyball Invitational
1. Crystal Lake Central 5-0
2. Waukesha 4-1
3. Belvidere North 4-1
4. Cary-Grove 2-3
5. Hinsdale Central 4-1
6. Marian Central 3-2
7. Barrington 2-3
8. Wheaton North 1-4
9. Batavia 2-3
10. Jacobs 1-4
11. Grant 2-3
12. Boylan 0-5