HUNTLEY — Prairie Ridge's 15-25, 25-23, 25-23 win over Huntley on Tuesday was a thrilling slugfest that had huge potential implications in a heated race for the Fox Valley Conference title.
After being dominated in stretches by Huntley in an opening set that saw the Wolves commit 12 unforced errors, P-R found itself down a second time, 19-16, late in the second set. Knowing what was at stake, Wolves coach Stefanie Otto called timeout, then had a message for her team.
"I told them, now is the time to fight, super-hard," Otto said. "I told them it's time to battle, and play with all their heart, and every ounce of energy they have left."
That's exactly what they did.
Even though the Wolves allowed the next two points following the timeout to fall behind even further, 21-16, Prairie Ridge (8-1, 7-0 FVC) stormed back to win the second set in thrilling fashion, capped by a huge block from senior Jayden Otto, who also had a team-best 24 assists and nine digs.
"Once we took that second set, everything changed," Jayden Otto said. "We knew if we lost this match, we'd be in a three-way tie with Huntley and Crystal Lake Central for first in the conference. We took our coach's words to heart. Late in that second set was where everything changed."
The Wolves also took that momentum and led by four points or more 17 different times during the third set, thanks in part to several key blocks from Notre Dame recruit Sammi Lockwood, and a team-high 10 kills by Hannah Baudin.
But Huntley (6-2, 5-2) refused to go away without a fight. Loren Alberts, who had five kills in the third set, and Army commit Julia Johnson (12 kills), pulled the Raiders back with the help of a match-high 31 assists from Taylor Jakubowski.
Facing a 20-15 third-set deficit, Huntley rallied to tie the set, 21-21, but couldn't sustain the momentum it needed. With P-R ahead, 24-23, the final point was a thriller.
Wolves senior outside hitter Olivia Annen's thunderous spike was dug near the floor by Jakubowski, then ricocheted off a basketball net above, near the top of the gym. Then, it fell to the floor past several diving Huntley players, ending things.
"You'd rather see a match end on something less unusual than a play like that, but we'll definitely take it," Stefanie Otto said.
The Wolves now lead Crystal Lake Central (10-1, 5-1) who also won Tuesday, by a game in the loss column in the FVC standings. And they lead Huntley by two.
"Defensively, I thought this was by far the best match we've played all season," Huntley coach Karen Naymola said. "Taylor had 15 digs. Sarah Sayas had 17 digs. And our kids had some huge blocks and tips to keep plays alive against Lockwood and Trinity Sheridan, who were just hammering the ball near the net all night.
"I told the girls, if anything, this proves we belong in the conversation as one of the best teams in the area. There's a lot of volleyball left. This is the Fox Valley Conference, so on any night, who knows what may happen."
STAR OF THE MATCH
Prairie Ridge, sr., OH
Annen came up big time after time when her team needed her, including a game-winning spike that capped an emotional come-from-behind win.
0: The number of times either team held more than a three-point lead in the final 11 points of the match.
AND ANOTHER THING...
Wolves sophomore Olivia Jost tallied 17 digs in her first match as the team's full-time libero, according to coach Stefanie Otto.