DUNDEE – St. Charles East needed to change the momentum.
After dropping the first set to St. Charles North in Monday's Class 4A Dundee-Crown Sectional, the Saints needed a quick emotional reset.
They got it.
On the back of its seniors, the Saints stormed back for a 16-25, 25-23, 25-21 win.
The Saints advance to a sectional final against Huntley at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
St. Charles East (23-13) defeated Huntley in last year's sectional final in three sets, which sets the stage for a high-profile rematch against Seton Hall recruit Taylor Jakubowski and company.
"We had to just get it [the momentum] back; that was the main thing," Saints coach Jennie Kull said of the second set. "We really didn't do that right away, but then they slowly but surely just pecked away at it and got it done."
The North Stars (19-16) stormed to a 17-12 advantage in the second set with a flurry of Kyla Lannert kills, Riley Moreno blocks and more. But the Saints fought within 17-15 after Nicole Luzi's kill, ace and then a North Stars attack error. Later tied at 19-19, Jessica Garland's ace gave the Saints a brief lead before Mia Dela Merced's kill evened it up at 20-20.
Kate Goudreau pounded a kill for another Saints lead at 21-20, where it soon ballooned to 24-21 Saints. Dela Merced had a kill and Moreno's block pulled the North Stars within 24-23, but Goudreau's final kill sent the Saints into the third set.
"[Moreno] has progressed so much throughout the course of the year," North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins said. "That was one of the things we just kept telling the girls is we have so much youth on our team and inexperience, and it was going to come. It just had to be the right time. Fortunately, we started peaking during the postseason."
Tied 12-12 in the third set, St. Charles East went on a 5-0 run with a North Stars attack error, Nina Scoliere kill, North Stars net violation, Scoliere block and a kill by Amarion Isbell.
The Saints later had a 20-14 lead, but the North Stars admirably pulled within 20-18 on a Lauren Ringness block and a flurry of Saints mistakes.
Rachel Sheehan picked the ideal time to perhaps play her best volleyball of the night, ripping two kills for the 22-19 Saints lead before Goudreau's block gave the Saints a four-point lead.
"I was just getting really excited, I wanted to win," Sheehan said of the third set. "Our whole team worked so hard for this...that drove me to do my best."
A Saints serve error pulled it within 23-20, but Anita Prybell pounded a kill to set up match point. Lannert pounded one more kill, but Skyler Misch's strike vaulted the Saints to victory.
Goudreau and Sheehan tied for the team-high six kills. Prybell, Isbell and Misch each had four. Scoliere had 22 digs to lead defensively, while also starring with 22 assists.
For the North Stars, Lannert led with a game-high 17 kills in her final game as a North Star. Dela Merced followed with 11 kills.
"We've watched a lot of North," Kull said. "And, that's the best they've played. They really came out and they really went after it. I'm proud of Lindsey...I think that Lindsey really prepared her team through the season. They were getting better and better; we were watching."