McHENRY – The McHenry girls volleyball team is growing up in a hurry.
Despite starting the season with four consecutive losses, the Warriors looked dominant at times during their 25-14, 25-18 Fox Valley Conference victory over Cary-Grove on Thursday evening.
It was the second win in a row for McHenry (2-4, 2-4 FVC), which only has two seniors on its roster.
"Sometimes you just have to give credit to a team for how well they played, and this is one of those times," C-G coach Patty Langanis said. "McHenry was really ready to go tonight with their offense and defense, and they hardly let anything drop. We got rattled right away and were never really able to recover. You give an up-and-coming team like them momentum, and you're in big trouble."
One of those momentum swings came in the first set, when the Warriors led, 9-5. They then scored the next nine points and didn't trail the entire set. They also played almost mistake-free volleyball early, committing three unforced errors during the first 39 combined points of the match.
Senior liberos Gabby DePersio (team-best 24 digs) and Izzi Visnjevac (15 digs) were two of many reasons why. DePersio, in particular, has developed a reputation for thwarting spikes from some of the best players in the conference to keep plays alive.
"I don't know why I'm able to react as well as I do, to be honest," DePersio said. "I just watch the best players and try to emulate what I see them doing and learn. A lot of it is hard work at practice and instinct. But the rest is just hustle, heart and wanting to win at all costs.
"I take a real sense of pride in stopping someone from getting what they think is a sure point. It gets my teammates fired up, and hopefully, they feed off that energy."
The Warriors used that energy and carried it into the second set, where the Trojans (4-5, 2-3) scored the first point, only to see McHenry score nine of the next 12, then pull away for good. Dunja Masic (12 assists) and Jacklyn Markovitz (10 asisists) helped on 22 of McHenry's 26 kills.
Kylie Borck (six kills), Lauren Sena (six kills) and Sara Boelkens (team-high 12 kills) added the majority of the finishing touches.
"You can see our girls learning and gaining confidence every time they play," McHenry coach Hilary Agnello said. "A big part of the reason we've been finishing much better suddenly, compared to when we lost four in a row, is these girls go up in practice against the great defense of their own teammates.
"As a coach, it's the ultimate compliment when you see your players rebound from adversity, listen to the things you teach them, and finding their own way. There were times tonight I wanted to tell them things, and they'd look at me like, 'Hey, we've got this.' I even had to back off a few times and just let the reins loose."
Jenna Splitt (14 assists, four kills) and Evynn Layshock (five kills) led the way for C-G.
"We need to remind ourselves, even if we lose the first set, the match isn't over," Langanis said. "That's the great thing about this sport, is it gives you a chance to redeem yourself. We hope to learn from this loss, move forward, and do just that."
STAR OF THE MATCH
McHenry, jr., OH
Boelkens was dominant near the net, with a team-best 12 kills. Nine of those came during the second set.
80 The number of points, out of 82 total, McHenry held the lead for during Thursday's match.
AND ANOTHER THING...
"I think Sara (Boelkens) and Gabby (DePersio) both deserve to be getting looks from college coaches," McHenry coach Hilary Agnello said.