CRYSTAL LAKE – Things were not going Crystal Lake Central’s way in the first set against crosstown rival Prairie Ridge. At one point, the visiting Wolves took a commanding 19-11 lead and looked well on their way to a first-set victory.
“Prairie Ridge came out strong, really aggressive,” Tigers coach Lisa Brunstrum said. “They play some really scrappy defense. We just didn’t rise to that challenge. We talked about settling down, kind of restarting and playing for every point.”
Point by point, the Tigers inched closer and closer.
A thunderous kill by junior Maddy McCormick gave them their first lead, 22-21, and Central didn’t look back.
With a fresh outlook, the Tigers came all the way back to take the first set in a 25-23, 25-20 Fox Valley Conference win against the defending conference champions Tuesday at Central Fieldhouse.
“They showed a lot of heart. They showed a lot of desire,” Brunstrum said. “I thought they played very selfless. They played for each other, especially when they were down.”
A timeout late in the first set gave the Tigers (3-0, 3-0 FVC) a chance to regroup.
“We were hyped in the beginning,” senior Camryn Hausler said. “I think we were psyching ourselves out. We took a deep breath in, deep breath out kind of thing ... reset and refocused.
“We started clicking; the setters and hitters started connecting. Our serve receive started getting better. It’s always amazing to win a set, especially when you have to come back for it.”
Junior middle blocker Madeline Timmerman, who recently committed to Eastern Michigan, came up huge in the first set with five kills and a block, while McCormick and Olivia Anderson both had four.
The Tigers had runs of 5-0 and 6-0 to pull off the first-set comeback.
Hausler had four kills, 11 assists and six digs, Karina Simatos led Central’s defense with nine digs, and Grace Levin had a team-high 12 assists. McCormick had seven kills and Anderson six.
“We came to the realization that we had to shake it off, move forward and forget about [the slow start],” said Timmerman, who finished with seven kills and two blocks. “We really wanted it.”
Trinity Sheridan, who missed Prairie Ridge’s first three matches with a back strain, was back for the Wolves and led everybody with 11 kills. Hannah Baudin had five kills and 13 assists, and Olivia Jost (two aces) and Alexis Kantner had six digs apiece.
“We stopped being aggressive,” Wolves coach Stefanie Otto said. “They started getting in system and running their middles (Timmerman and Anderson). We have a hard time stopping that.
“I was proud of them to come out the way they did. They were getting after it.”
Central’s season ended last year against Prairie Ridge in the sectional finals. That’s in the past for the Tigers.
“I don’t think we put them together, because it was last year, and you can’t dwell on things,” Hausler said. “I’m very proud of all of us and how we all played.”