HUNTLEY – After a string of 22 consecutive victories and a regional title, Huntley volleyball entered Wednesday’s Class 4A Huntley Sectional championship match believing it had a team capable of going all the way.
The Red Raiders simply didn’t play their best Wednesday in a loss to St. Charles East, 26-24, 18-25, 25-19.
“Not a great day to have an off game,” Huntley coach Karen Naymola. “It just wasn’t a good game for us.”
Huntley played from behind during most of the first-set loss, and pulled away late in the second set. The deciding set was a back-and-forth affair most of the way. Huntley led 19-17 before St. Charles East won eight consecutive points to take home the sectional championship.
St. Charles East (25-14) won its first sectional championship since 2011. Huntley (35-4) was trying to win its first sectional since 2001.
“I really did think that we were going to go all the way this year,” Huntley senior Julia Johnson said. “It was our year. We just didn’t come out that third set like we should have. We didn’t follow through with things that we should have and we made a lot of errors.”
Johnson had a team-high 15 kills in the loss. Emma Konie had 11 kills and Loren Alberts added 10. Taylor Jakubowski had 28 assists and 23 digs for Huntley. Sarah Zayas had 23 digs.
“Our serve-receive wasn’t what it has been, so we had a hard time running our middles,” Naymola said. “Nobody in the conference can keep up with our middles. When we can’t run them, it slows down our game, it slows down our offense. [St. Charles East] did a great job of executing on their end.”
St. Charles East advances to face Downers Grove North in Friday’s Class 4A Bartlett Supersectional. The Saints have only four seniors, but they are clicking at the right time.
Each of the teams they beat at the sectional this week, Huntley and Belvidere North, had just three losses coming in.
“They started to gel and it took every single one of them to do it,” coach Jennie Kull said. “At the beginning of the season, we were hoping to be above .500. I call them ‘little misfits.' They are loving to be together.”
On the other side, Huntley graduates seven seniors. The Red Raiders were another team that hit its stride late in the year, winning 42 consecutive sets prior to the sectional semifinals.
“This season, we knew it was going to be our season,” Johnson said. “Each one of us came out fighting and practicing hard. No one let up at practice. I just love the girls so much. I can’t imagine not playing with them ever again.”
Naymola felt her team proved it can “compete with any team in the state of Illinois.”
“They’ve proved that all season and when they’re playing together and playing consistent, we’re a top team,” Naymola said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way tonight.”
STAR OF THE MATCH
Julia Johnson, Huntley, sr., OH
Johnson led Huntley with 15 kills in a sectional championship loss to St. Charles East on Wednesday night.
22: Huntley had its 22-match win streak snapped.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Huntley was trying to win its first sectional championship since 2001. The Red Raiders last reached a sectional final in 2011.