Girls volleyball: Naperville Central evens DuPage Valley race

Story Image West Aurora's Abriya Zeitz digs out a Naperville Central serve in Naperville on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media
Story Image

Updated: October 2, 2012 10:52PM

The clash of DuPage Valley Conference volleyball titans — visiting West Aurora and Naperville Central — lived up to the hype and then some Tuesday.

The Redhawks dropped the first set but got a combined 22 kills from a trio of middle hitters and rallied to claim an 18-25, 25-23, 25-22 decision that avenged an earlier two-set loss to the Blackhawks and pulls them even in the conference race. Naperville Central climbs to 17-4 overall and 9-1 in the league while West Aurora falls to 18-2 and 8-1.

“We didn’t finish. We waited to react to the ball,” said West Aurora coach Kari Nicholson. “I think we thought first game we got them 25-18 and we let up. Then we gave up 11 (straight) points on one serve rotation (in the second game). We subbed in and they still got 11 straight. We dug ourselves an 11-point hole and then lost by two.”

Senior Alysia Baznik, who finished with a team-high 13 kills and six service aces, served that run for Naperville Central.

“It’s not just the serve that keeps a run like that going,” she said. “It’s the whole team. They worked hard. It was basically our whole team going all out.

“We wanted it really bad and they did too. I know some of their girls and they’re really competitive just like we are.”

The third game was great theater with the Blackhawks using an early six-point service run by setter Elli Martin (13 assists) to take a 6-1 lead. Baznik and the Redhawks answered with a seven-point run that put them up 8-6.

Then it got crazy. The game was tied at every point from 9-all through 20-all before the hosts gained a two-point edge on back-to-back kills by Baznik off sets from Abbi Williamson (30 assists) to make it 22-20.

West Aurora got within one twice after that, but Baznik’s final kill gave her team a 24-22 edge and then senior middle Nikki Connors (eight kills, two blocks) scored an excuse-me game-winner, hitting an errant pass over the net that found an open spot and fell in.

The Redhawks got eight kills from senior middle Sammy Condon and six from sophomore middle Phoebe Havenaar.

“We run a three middle offense and that’s exactly it,” said Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson. “They’re fantastic and we’ve got to get them the ball and when we did we were able to run them away from (Lauren) Carlini on that (right) side, which served us well.”

Carlini led the Blackhawks with eight kills, 16 assists and five service aces. Peyton McKenzie had a team-high 15 kills and Kaitlyn Richter added six. Abriya Zeitz, who returned last Thursday from a high ankle sprain, had four blocks.

“I thought we played well in the first half of the first game and then we lost momentum,” said Isaacson. “Carlini went on a serving run and they forced some big points.

“Going into the second game we were really quiet and I told the girls we needed to start playing with enthusiasm. And we also changed our game plan and started trying to avoid the right side of the court (and Carlini).

“We battled to the end of game two and then the last one was a nail-biter to the end. Volleyball is a game of momentum and it’s great we got it and snuck it out at the end.”

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