Girls Volleyball: Niles North knocks off Loyola to avenge early season loss

Updated: October 25, 2012 8:32PM

Niles North’s record season got a lot better Thursday.

After coming up short of a championship in the Central Suburban North, the fifth-seeded Vikings won their first regional title since 2006 by beating fourth-seeded host Loyola in Class 4A 25-23, 25-21. The victory was the team’s 30th and extended the program record once more.

Andrea Lopez, one of nine Niles North seniors and the team’s heartbeat, scored kills to end both sets to spark the celebration.

“She was very big,” Niles North coach Mike Cott said of the outside hitter. “She’s been a leader for us all season, and she’s a coach on the floor. I can’t say enough about her.

“It fitting she got those final points for us.”

The Vikings (30-7) trailed 5-0 in the first set but used an 11-1 run to assume a 17-12 advantage and control of the opener. They then led 24-19 before the Ramblers (20-14) rallied with four consecutive points behind Grace Kane’s serve.

Lopez ended the threat with one of her eight kills.

The second set was much closer throughout, tied as late as 21-all. But senior setter Samantha Acance served three of the team’s final four points to secure the victory.

“This is my biggest win,” said Acance, who registered 21 assists, seven digs, two kills and one ace. “I’ve never made it this far, so this was one of my goals, especially after not winning conference.”

Loyola was without for senior Anna Pontarelli for the playoffs after the team’s top hitter injured her right shoulder during the GCAC Red tournament late last week.

Juniors Victoria Lord and Kelsey O’Neill picked up the slack on offense, consistently scoring points on the front row.

O’Neill had two blocks as Loyola raced out to a 5-0 lead in the first set and had a kill to leave the score 24-23. O’Neill also put down a kill that tied the score at 21-all in the second set.

Loyola beat Niles North 27-25, 25-16 on Aug. 31 in the first meeting between the two clubs.

Niles North plays top-seeded New Trier on Tuesday in the sectional semifinals at Niles North. Trinity plays Niles West in the other semifinal. The sectional final is Thursday.

“We were disappointed about conference,” said Cott, who led the team to 23 wins a year ago. “That’s why this one is sweet and feels so good.”

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