Grace Kloss said her serving was awful last week.
“So I spent a lot of time flexing my hand and serving from different spots on the court so I can get the best angle on the passer,” said the 5-foot-8 libero from Waubonsie Valley.
What a difference a week makes.
Kloss served two aces as part of a 4-0 run that rallied SPVB 18 Elite from a 10-8 deficit in Game 1, and was again at the service line in Game 2 as part of a 6-0 run that wiped out a 9-3 deficit as SPVB 18 Elite defeated Uno Girls 18 Elite 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 in Sunday’s match between the top two teams in the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division.
Uno Girls 18 Elite took an early 7-4 lead in Game 1 on a blast by Tennessee recruit Rocky Perinar from Minooka and still led 10-8 following a crosscourt smash by junior Lauren Hatch of Marian Catholic.
But one of 10 first-game kills by SPVB 18 Elite’s 6-4 sophomore outside hitter Taylor Landfair of Plainfield Central closed the gap to 10-9 and sent Kloss to the service line.
“When I go back there, I really don't think about anything else,” said Kloss, who is headed to the University of California, Santa Barbara in the fall. “I just focus on keeping my contacts strong and staying calm. I throw everything else out.”
Kloss’ back-to-back aces gave SPVB 18 Elite a lead it never relinquished. The hosts extended the advantage to 22-17 on a kill by Sammi LaBolle from Sandwich, but two hitting errors by the home team allowed Uno Girls 18 Elite to close within 22-19.
However, Landfair’s final kill of the first set sent Kloss back to the service line, and her ace gave the hosts set point.
In Game 2, Uno Girls 18 Elite aced to a 9-2 lead that featured a kill and a stuff by former Minooka middle hitter Samantha Hermann. But a LaBolle block sent Kloss back to the service line, and before she was through, SPVB had a 10-9 lead.
“Kloss had a great serving run for us in Game 2,” SPVB 18 Elite coach Rick Butler said. “We were able to hit some spots and keep them out of system. They’ve got two or three kids who hit the ball really, really well. If they’re (Uno) passing well, nobody can have a lot of success against them.”
Game 3 was all about SPVB 18 Elite’s Hanna Lesiak, a 6-2 outside hitter from Lincoln-Way East who is committed to Northwestern. Lesiak, who missed the first weekend of Power League play with a sprained ankle, had 4 kills and a block in the set.
“It feels good to be back,” Lesiak said. “I was so anxious to get back. It's hard when you're out. You never want to play more than when you aren't able to.”
The loss was the first in eight Power League matches for Uno Girls 18 Elite, which wrapped up its pool earlier in the day with a 25-13, 25-23, 25-20 win over Michio Chicago 17 National.
“We talked before the match about staying mentally strong throughout because it's a five-set match,” Uno Girls 18 Elite coach Vivian Pritz said. “But they're (SPVB 18 Elite) a very good team. Kudos to them. They did a really good job. But we just have to mentally stay with it the whole time.”
A bright spot for Uno Girls 18 Elite was the play of Hatch, a junior who was elevated to the 18s team prior to the start of the season.
“Hatch is all around making our team better,” Pritz said. “She pushes points defensively. She had four digs at the end that were unbelievable. I didn't know if she’d ever get them. But she's running forward and doing very well.
“She looks a lot to Rocky to see what she needs to do and that's part of the reason we pulled her up .. so she can see what Rocky does, what Taylor (libero Baranski) does, how they come together. It’s a blessing to have her on this team.”
Middle hitter Emmi Barnhorst of Wheaton North added 10 kills and an ace for SPVB 18 Elite.
“I really like this group a lot,” Butler said. “We’re young, We have a junior rightside, a junior setter and a sophomore outside. But I think we have a lot of growth potential. They're doing what we’re doing in practice … they’re trying to get better every day.”
In other Gold Crossovers, Fusion 17 Red defeated SPVB 18 Kahl 23-25, 25-11, 26-24, 16-25, 15-9, Sky High Adidas 18 Black bounced Michio Chicago 18 National 25-16, 25-19, 25-18, and 1st Alliance 18 Silver defeated Michio Chicago 17 National 25-19, 14-25, 25-17, 25-21.
Earlier in pool play, Sky High Adidas 18 Black defeated Fusion 17 Red 25-20, 25-18, 20-25, 23-25, 17-15. Fusion 17 Red had match point at 15-14 in Game 5 following a kill by Gigi Crescenzo of St. Charles North, but two Fusion errors sandwiched around a kill by Emily Kelly of Crystal Lake Central gave the Crystal Lake crew its first win of pool play.
“We really needed that one,” Emily Kelly said. “I knew that we had to win this match. We wanted to do it in three because it would have put us in the best position. But when we lost the third and fourth games. we had to come out like we did in the first set.”
The win over Fusion 17 Red and Michio Chicago 18 National in its Gold Crossover allowed Sky High Adidas 18 Black to remain in the Gold division after going 0-2 in pool play Saturday.
“I think what plays in five-game matches like this is the mental piece,” Emily Kelly said. “That broke down (Saturday). We came back today knowing we had to fix that part of our game because the physical part of the game is fine.”
Joining Sky High Adidas 18 Black in the Gold division next weekend are SPVB 18 Elite, Uno Girls 18 Elite, Fusion 17 Red and SPVB 18 Kahl. Moving up to the Gold from the Silver division are Illini Elite 18 Cardinal, FaR Out 18 Black and FC Elite 17 Navy.
Michio Chicago 18 National, 1st Alliance 18 Silver and Michio Chicago 17 National were bounced to the Silver, although Michio Chicago 18 National should fare better with the return of Notre Dame recruit Charley Niego from Mother McAuley, who was away this weekend on a school retreat.
Elsewhere, Ultimate G18 Gold moved up to the Silver by winning the Bronze on Sunday by defeating FaR Out 18 Gold out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 27-25, 19-25, 25-20, 18-25, 16-14.
Earlier Sunday, Ultimate G18 Gold won its Bronze pool by defeating 1st Alliance 17 Silver 25-19, 22-25, 21-25, 25-16, 15-11. Ultimate 18 Gold took advantage of its strength in the middle – namely 6-2 Valparaiso recruit Haley Hart from Lincoln-Way East and Akron recruit Mahogany Vinson from Rich Central, to move up in the league.
“That’s the game plan,” Ultimate G18 Gold coach Marco Quintana said. “We've been working the middles the entire week for last two weeks and trying to get that disciplined rhythm and stay in system. We got away from it a little bit in Games 2 and 3 against 1st Alliance and paid the price for it.”
Quintana said another key for his team is focusing on what will put them in the best position to win.
“We don't think about making mistakes, we think about making plays,” he said. “If you think about making plays, good things will happen. You stay aggressive instead of thinking about the last mistake you made. That’s something we talk about all the time.”
For more results and future schedules, go to www.advancedeventsystems.com/EventResults/(S(yxxrf1muvfuvs5qwyltnmjbe))/PlayResults.aspx?e=PTAwMDAwMTM3MDI90&d=60254