There was something familiar about the players on Court 1 late Saturday morning in Gold Pool A of the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division.
Fusion 17 Red squared off against Uno Girls 18 Elite in a second-round match with both teams seeking to remain unbeaten in pool play heading into Sunday’s third-round matches and Gold crossovers.
But there was a little extra incentive for Fusion 17 Red’s Katie Lanz and Gigi Crescenzo, who play their high school ball at St. Charles North. Across the net were Taylor Baranski, Holly Bonde, Samantha Hermann, Olivia Klank and Rocky Perinar from Minooka.
Minooka ended St. Charles North’s IHSA state title hopes in a Class 4A semifinal 25-20, 25-12 at ISU’s Redbird Arena in mid-November.
“It made it a little more competitive because me and Gigi already saw them,” Lanz said. “We were telling our teammates what patterns we noticed. It was cool because obviously Minooka beat us at state so it's just like, ‘Hey, we can do this.’
“It was really cool coming back in the third and fourth sets,” Lanz added. “So it was a lot of fun.”
Uno, aka Minooka Light minus Illprepvb.com Player of the Year Alli Papesh, looked like it would pick up where it left off in November by beating the girls from Batavia 25-15 in the first set. But Fusion kept it close in the second, falling 28-26 before turning the tables in Games 3 and 4.
“We started playing a lot better and they were making a lot of unforced errors,” Lanz said. “That not only fed us points, but it also fed us a lot of energy and confidence.”
That confidence gained from winning the next two sets, 25-22 and 25-20, spilled over into the fifth set and carried Fusion to a 9-4 lead. Then Uno began the long climb back, finally catching Fusion at 11-11 on a kill by Perinar.
“They stopped making mistakes,” Lanz said. “Our serve-receive broke down a bit and we weren't pounding the ball like we were before. So that changed.”
A kill by Lauren Hatch of Marian Catholic gave Uno its first lead of the fifth set at 15-14, but Crescenzo answered for Fusion. Bonde finally put the match away for the girls from Joliet with back-to-back kills.
“The girls worked really hard, they played together and they did what I asked them to do,” Fusion 17 Red coach Joe Davidson said. “You always like to win, but there's room to grow and that's an opportunity for us to learn and become better volleyball players.”
The victory put Uno Girls 18 Elite at 2-0 in Gold Pool A. Earlier Saturday, Uno overcame a 7-2 deficit in Game 1 and a 7-4 deficit in the second set to defeat Sky High Adidas 18 Black 25-23, 25-17, 25-20.
“We had a little bit of a mess up with our lineup in the first game and some of us were playing different positions,” said Perinar, a Tennessee recruit. “That put us in a hole at the beginning. But we all play different positions in practice, so we pushed through and made our goal.”
Sky High coach Ray Rugebregt said errors were the difference against Uno.
“Uno is a very good team,” he said. “They’re extremely consistent. They don’t make a lot of errors. We showed some greatness where we can definitely hang with them. I feel we can hang with a lot of teams.”
Sky High Adidas 18 Black, which played both matches Saturday without setter/opposite hitter Megan Kelly from Crystal Lake Central, hung with Michio Chicago 17 National in its second match. But hanging with Michio did not translate into victory.
After dropping the first two sets, Sky High fought back only to falter 25-18, 25-23, 11-25, 24-26, 15-11. Marian Catholic’s Temitayo Thomas-Ailara was a one-person wrecking crew for Michio, and Sky High’s failure to take advantage when she rotated out of the game led to its demise.
“When their star player is out of the game, you have to capitalize,” Rugebregt said. “You have to take as many points as you can while she’s out, because you know when she’s back in the rotation she’s going to get some if not all of it back.”
Meanwhile, Uno Girls 18 Elite is eyeballing a showdown with SPVB 18 Elite in a Gold crossover provided both teams can take care of business in their pool finales Sunday.
SPVB 18 Elite defeated 1st Alliance 18 Silver 25-11, 25-22, 32-30 and Sports Performance’s No. 2 18s team, SPVB 18 Kahl, 25-19, 25-18, 25-21, to go to 2-0 in Gold Pool B.
“1st Alliance didn't play well in the first set,” SPVB 18 Elite coach Rick Butler said. “1st Alliance kids are always well-skilled. The first set wasn't indicative of how good they are.”
“The second and third sets are more indicative of how we're going to play with a lot of teams because we’re young and not that experienced,” he added. “But I like this group. They have a lot of potential and think we’re going to keep growing and keep developing.”
SPVB 18 Elite had match points at 24-23 and 25-24 in the third set against 1st Alliance, but broke the cardinal rule of serving both times. The first missed serve followed a timeout
“There's a golden rule of serving,” Butler said. “You never miss a serve after a timeout, you never miss a serve on set point, and you never, never miss a serve on match point. We missed a serve on match point twice. That's the triple whammy right there.”
SPVB 18 Elite will close Gold Pool B play against Michio Chicago 18 National, which went 1-1 on Saturday without Marist star Charley Niego, who was on a school retreat.
Michio bounced back from a 25-15, 25-18, 25-16 loss to SPVB 18 Kahl in its opener to hold off 1st Alliance 19-25, 25-22, 25-27, 25-16, 15-7.
“I’m not that happy,” said Michio coach Bryn Kehoe following her team’s loss to SPVB 18 Kahl. “Regardless (of missing Niego), we could have played a lot better. We had a 16-year-old playing with us (Maddie Arundel from Marist) and she did a great job.
“But we had a bad week of practice, so I don't know what they expected to happen,” the coach added. “Miracles don't happen. You have to practice hard to have results in games, and they weren't there this week in practice.”
The results were also mixed Saturday for Illlini Elite Volleyball Club out of Bloomington.
Illini Elite 18 Cardinal swept its matches in Silver Pool B, beating FC Elite 17 Navy 19-25, 26-24, 25-15, 25-12 and Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold 16-25, 25-20, 25-17, 22-25, 15-12, and will meet 1st Alliance 18 Black in its pool finale Sunday at 9:15 a.m. on Court 4
But Illini Elite 17 Cardinal went 1-1 in Silver Pool A, beating Michio Chicago 18 Premier 25-21, 27-25, 22-25, 12-25, 15-6 and losing to pool leader FaR Out 18 Black 25-17, 25-18, 22-25, 25-9. Illini Elite 17 Cardinal will play Fusion 18 Black (0-2) in its pool final at 7:45 a.m. on Court 4.
“Obviously, they're not used to playing best-of-five,” Illini Elite 17 Cardinal coach Michelle Erins said after her team’s lengthy win over Michio. “They came out and won the first two sets, and usually that means we’re done. So that's been a hard adjustment for them.
“They have to realize that they have to focus long enough to win three straight,” she added. “It can be challenging. Hopefully, we’ll keep learning how to play best-of-five here.”
Erins said winning a long rally at 5-5 in the fifth set against Michio propelled her team to victory.
“Sometimes it’s who's hot at the right time,” she said. “We had a real long rally at 5-5. The ball went over the net 10 times and we won that rally. They (Michio) only scored one more point after that rally.”
In the Great Lakes Power League, Rolling Thunder 18 Blue out of Lake Zurich rallied from a 17-14 deficit in Game 1 to defeat Sky High Adidas 17 Red 25-22, 25-17 and advance to the semifinals of Bracket A.
“We played a little shaky early in the first game,” Rolling Thunder coach Jimmy Neill said. “We always try to run the same tempo, the same speed, no matter whether we’re up or down. We always try to do little things right … one point at a time.”
A long overhead from deep in the back corner by St. Viator’s Catherine Hickey that fell in Sky High’s corner for a point, a hitting error by the Crystal Lake crew and an quick hitter over the middle by Jessica Riedl of Maine West gave Rolling Thunder an 18-17 lead in Game 1.
“Catherine Hickey really passed well, played good defense and terminated when she had opportunities to terminate,” Neill said. “Kylie (setter Dykgraaf from Lake Zurich) did a really good job. She ran the floor and played very steady.
“Jessica had some good blocks, some good touches,” the coach added. “She dominated. She's a quick kid, very strong. She does everything 100 percent all the time. She’s a pretty dominating player.”
Rolling Thunder built a 15-10 in Game 2 and led 20-14 before Sky High ran off 3 straight points including an ace from defensive specialist Isidora Visjevac from McHenry and a kill by Hampshire’s Riley Seagren.
But a Sky High service error, an ace by Rolling Thunder outside hitter Emily Bringer from Grant and a kill off the block by Hickey put the game and match out of reach.
In another Bracket A quarterfinal, VC United 182 Elite rallied from a 10-3 deficit in the third game against SWVBC G18 from Wisconsin to get within 12-10. But the girls from Rockford could get no closer, falling 27-29, 25-17, 15-12.
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