CRYSTAL LAKE – Huntley handed Crystal Lake Central two of its four losses last season and, after claiming the first set on Thursday, the Red Raiders looked on their way to handing the Tigers another defeat.
The defending Fox Valley Conference champions had other ideas.
"As a team, we just talked about how we needed consistent energy," junior Camryn Hausler said of Central's huddle after the first-set loss. "We needed to make sure we stayed together and had fun.
"There were a lot of people here, and we just needed to make sure we were calm and collected."
The Tigers regrouped after a sluggish opening set and came back to beat Huntley, 23-25, 25-19, 25-19, at Central Fieldhouse, giving the Red Raiders (6-1, 5-1 FVC) their first loss of the season.
Central (9-1, 4-1) has won eight matches in a row since losing to Prairie Ridge in three sets on Aug. 28. Sophomore Maddy McCormick had two aces, including the match winner, to keep the streak alive.
"I was like, 'Don't miss,'" McCormick said of serving the final point. "Everyone was so hyped. I think the energy really pushed us through. It was an awesome feeling."
Huntley jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third set and grew its lead to 11-4, but the Tigers climbed back into the match with a 4-0 run. Madeline Timmerman tied it at 16-16 with a block and Paige Hulata gave Central its first lead, 18-17, with a kill.
The Tigers never trailed again.
An ace by McCormick gave the Tigers a 22-19 lead, and after a Huntley kill attempt went long, Madde Blake's block at the net put Central a point away from the match. McCormick found an open spot in the back row to seal the win.
Central coach Lisa Brunstrum pointed to her team's improved defense in the second and third sets as a reason for the turnaround. Karina Simatos led Central with 21 digs, including a point-saving dig late in the third set to keep a long rally alive.
"I was really proud of how the girls played at the end," Brunstrum said. "They played some tough defense, and they did not want that ball to die on the floor. ... I was really happy to see that heart, fight and desire."
Hausler led the Tigers with six kills, five blocks, 16 assists and eight digs, Madde Blake had 12 kills, and Olivia Anderson had six kills and eight blocks. Madeline Timmerman had six kills and six blocks, Hulata had six kills, and Grace Levin added 12 assists.
Huntley coach Karen Naymola said the Raiders went away from what was working for them in the first set.
"In Game 1, we were serving aggressive and (Central's) serve receive was off," Naymola said. "We took advantage of it. I don't know why Game 2 and 3 we let up on our serving.
"They started forcing their middle a lot, and we went away from forcing ours. I felt like it was a combination of them getting their offense going and us going away from what was working for us."
Huntley was led offensively by Julia Johnson with 12 kills and Emma Konie with seven kills and 19 digs. Taylor Jakubowski recorded 25 assists and 19 digs, and Marissa Deem added five kills and four blocks.
STAR OF THE MATCH
Camryn Hausler, Crystal Lake Central, jr., S
Hausler had six kills, five blocks, 16 assists and eight digs in a 23-25, 25-19, 25-19 win over Huntley.
8: Central has won eight straight matches.
AND ANOTHER THING...
Eight players recorded five or more kills: Central's Madde Blake (12), Madeline Timmerman (6), Olivia Anderson (6), Hausler (6) and Paige Hulata (6), and Huntley's Julia Johnson (12), Emma Konie (7) and Marissa Deem (5).