Naperville Central edges out West Aurora
Naperville Central was thought to be a top 20-caliber team at the beginning of the season. West Aurora, despite the presence of junior Lauren Carlini, was an afterthought.
Naperville struggled out of the gate, and just a few weeks ago was hovering around the .500 mark. West Aurora, on the other hand, surprised many folks in the DuPage Valley Conference and heading into Tuesday night’s match at Naperville Central had a share of the league lead.
Central was just a little better Tuesday, avenging an earlier loss at West Aurora with a 25-20, 25-20 victory behind Alysia Baznik (eight assists, seven kills, two aces), Sammie Condon (four kills, three blocks) and Kendall Ward (five kills). Central improved to 14-7 overall and 9-1 in the DVC.
Carlini’s eight kills, eight assists and a block and Peyton McKenzie’s seven kills and three aces were not enough to save West Aurora (17-8, 7-2).
“I don’t think they (Naperville Central) let anything hit the ground,” West Aurora coach Kari Nicholson said. “They came at us very aggressively. Our defense was good, but then we kind of let up on our hits. We were a little off today.”
West Aurora led 19-17 in Game One on a kill and an ace by Peyton McKenzie, but Central defensive specialist Haley Rives answered with consecutive service winners to force a West Aurora timeout down 21-19.
Kills by Central’s Condon and Emily Barta and a West Aurora error put the first game in the books.
In Game Two, Central used a 10-0 run to wipe out a 16-14 deficit, then had to hold on as West Aurora closed to within 24-20 with a 6-0 run of its own. However, after McKenzie’s ace got the Blackhawks within four points, Condon ended the match with her third block.
“This is big for us,” Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson said. “We lost to them in two the last time we played them. We did not play that well, but some good things happened tonight. Hopefully, we can build on it and keep building confidence.”
The win was the seventh in a row for Central, which also got 12 assists and three digs from Abbi Williamson and two blocks and kill by Maddie Siambeckos.
“We decided after the Jacobs tournament to start working harder than we had been in practice,” Baznik said. “If we’re working harder in practice, we can get better in games and make games easier for us. I feel if we keep practicing hard now, we’ll continue to grow as a team.”
Kaitlyn Richter had five kills, Lauren Wilson had four kills and Ellie Martin added 11 assists for West Aurora.
“It didn’t flow tonight,” Nicholson said. “You do have nights like that. You just can’t have a night like that against Naperville Central.”