Lincoln-Way North wins conference titleJill Conrad of Stagg gets a shot past Lorin Pedersoli of Lincoln-Way North at Stagg High School, Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 in Palos Hills, IL. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 19, 2011 9:33PM
If Lincoln-Way North handles a tough postseason assignment like the Phoenix handled a tough situation in Wednesday’s SouthWest Suburban Red title match against host Stagg, the Class 4A Andrew Sectional field might be in for a surprise.
But that’s for then. For now, North is happy to be a conference champion.
“We accomplished one of our goals that we set at the start of the season,” outside hitter Stephanie Pearson said with a smile after the Phoenix persevered and eventually prevailed 23-25, 25-21, 25-11.
Pearson was a big reason, with 10 kills and 12 service points. Other big contributors for North (19-15, 7-0) were Casey Zimmerman (8 kills, 6 blocks), Jackie Billie (30 assists, 16 digs), Hayley Wacker (7 kills) and Michelle Scott (13 service points, 13 digs).
For No. 8 Stagg (18-17, 6-1), Jill Conrad had six kills and 10 assists, Liz Panella six kills, Ali Conrad five kills, Morgan Thomas 22 digs and Alexa Janus 13 digs and 13 assists.
“We worked hard over the summer and it all came together and we peaked just at the right time,” Pearson said. “We had some ups and we had some downs, but toward the end of the season we started playing really well.”
North was well back on its heels, having lost Game 1 and surrendering the first four points in Game 2 before Zimmerman, on a quick set from Billie, sliced a spike through the heart of Stagg’s defense.
It started quite a turnaround.
“When someone lights up, all of us light up,” Zimmerman said. “But someone has to start it.”
Ashley Pickert pulled the Phoenix into a tie for the first time in Game 2 with a spike for kill and then a block for kill. A subsequent ace to the back line by Wacker would also fuel what would become a 10-2 run.
As the match wore on, Pearson seemed to get stronger. At the net, Zimmerman and Pickert (both 6-foot) and Wacker (5-11) began to take Stagg’s hitters out of their rhythm.
“Once you get a big block and you get all fired up … I think we got in their heads,” Zimmerman said. “I could see it on their faces.”
And what the blockers weren’t getting, the back row was. Scott, the libero, not only had success defensively, but began to pick the Phoenix up at the service line as well. It was her six-point streak (including an ace) that put Stagg in a 9-2 hole in Game 3 that it was never able to dig out of.
“Once (the front row) started putting up a block I knew where to go,” Scott said. “Once the block took it away I went to the spot and got them up.
“I was nervous. Conference was on the line. We got it.”