Girls Volleyball: Libertyville plays like a champ in supers

Story Image Hoffman Estates Saturday, 11/3/12

Libertyville's Vicky Liu (0) and Julia Smagacz (13) celebrate Saturday evening's Super-sectional win over Prairie Ridge. Libertyville won the match, 26-24, 25-23. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
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Libertyville’s Kristen Webb admitted she got a little nervous.

Prairie Ridge ran off seven consecutive points to cut into Libertyville’s 24-16 lead in Game 2 of the Class 4A Hoffman Estates Supersectional girls volleyball match Saturday. But at 24-23, a Prairie Ridge serve went long and the Wildcats jumped high into the air in jubilation.

Libertyville (34-6) defeated Prairie Ridge 26-24, 25-23 to earn its first berth in the state finals since 2007. The Wildcats will face defending state champion Benet at 9 p.m. Friday at Illinois State University in Normal.

But getting there wasn’t easy.

“I was getting nervous,” Webb said. “Nothing was going down. After every timeout, they came out and seemed to know what we were going to run.”

Libertyville coach Greg Loika said he was thinking back to the sectional semifinals in which the Wildcats blew a 21-11 lead in Game 1 of their three-set victory over Hersey.

“I was thinking about it,” he said. “We got stuck in a rotation again that we don’t love. But credit Prairie Ridge. They did not lay down. They just ... fought. We had a couple of passes that didn’t get us in system, we had some mistakes in serve-receive and we couldn’t side-out.

“But our last couple of matches ended on errors,” Loika added. “We’ll take it every single time. But credit Prairie Ridge. The defense that was going on that court was unbelievable. The rallies were great.”

Prairie Ridge (30-10) controlled most of Game 1, riding the hot hands of 6-foot-3 junior middle Maddie Drain (seven kills, one block) and 5-11 sophomore Ali Witt (five kills) to take a 23-20 lead.

But after a timeout, Libertyville stormed back and pulled even at 23-23 on an ace by junior defensive specialist Vicky Liu.

“(During the timeout), we talked about how much we wanted it, how we practiced so hard for this, how we’re going to fight for every point,” Libertyville setter Cindy Zhou said. “We weren’t going to let the ball hit the ground. We’re going to do whatever it took to get the next point.”

A kill by Kennedy McNeil gave the Wolves their last lead at 24-23. Libertyville closed out the set on a kill by Julia Smagacz (four kills), a block by Alex Basler (four kills, three blocks) and a hitting error by Prairie Ridge.

“We made a lot of unforced errors tonight,” Prairie Ridge coach Stefanie Otto said. “They (Libertyville) played great defense over there. They serve-received very well, better than I saw them play against Palatine. We just missed too many serves in that first game.”

Leading 10-9 in Game 2, Libertyville went on a 14-7 run capped by Zhou’s ace to take a seemingly comfortable 24-16 lead. But A Libertyville hitting error and three kills by Witt, two by Caitlin Brauneis and a service ace had the Wildcats on their heels.

However, the Wolves’ comeback fell short.

“When that last serve went long, I asked myself, ‘Did that just happen?’” Webb said. “Then it hit me. We’re going to state.”

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