ST CHARLES – Maya Lopez’s serving mentality is simple.
Get the ball over the net to help her team score points.
Lopez did just that Tuesday night as her St. Charles East girls volleyball team opened its postseason against Hampshire as part of the Class 4A St. Charles East regional semifinals.
After falling behind early in the second set, the sophomore defensive specialist Lopez served 11 straight points to rally the Saints past Hampshire, 25-14, 25-12, and into Thursday’s regional championship match.
“I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team,” said Lopez, who picked up her team-high three aces in her serve streak. “That’s really all I was thinking about. I just want my team to have confidence in me serving and knew that we had a good chance to score points if I continued to get the ball over.”
The Saints (19-17) trailed, 6-4, early after taking the first set rather handily. Junior libero Lia Schneider had a hustle play to save a ball that deflected high off of a basketball backboard, which set up a Kendra Dziubinski kill. This sent Lopez to the service line with her team down one.
Longtime Saints coach Jennie Kull knows how important keeping momentum is in volleyball, but especially in a postseason match when it’s win or go home.
“We have been talking about making those runs all season and being confident in those situations,” Kull said. “The girls did a really nice job and I feel like we’ve been seeing this group [play well] for the last stretch of the season. I think it was really telling of them to keep the momentum… It was a huge step for us tonight.”
“Maya has really taken it upon herself to grow and get better [serving]. She wasn’t the most consistent at the beginning of the year, but that’s a tribute to her and her hard work.”
St. Charles East finished the second set on a 21-6 run. Senior Isabella Mosquera led the way with four kills, while Schneider and Alexis Crossen each contributed four digs in the win.
Kull is also happy to have Schneider back after the junior has missed some time of late with back and leg injuries. Not only are the Saints more comfortable with their libero on the court, but they get their defensive spark plug back at the perfect time.
“I felt like [the 12-point run] gave us the little energy boost we needed,” Schneider said. “It’s definitely nice to play with a lead and makes us relax that much more. I’m definitely excited to be back and be part of it. I honestly forget about the pain or injuries when I’m out there and just put it all on the line for my team.”
For Hampshire and coach Will Benehaley, there were just too many mishaps on the defensive end. While he was happy with his team’s defensive structure, the Whip-Purs (14-21) were unable to stop a run that eventually ended their season.
“It just came to us not keeping the ball in control,” Benehaley said. “It was just mistake after mistake. I was trying to slow them down however I could, but they played a very strong game and we didn’t.”
Senior Jacey Lambert led the way for Hampshire with four kills and an ace.
St. Charles East will take on South Elgin (31-4) in search of the program’s fourth straight regional title. The Saints handed South Elgin one of its four losses in a straight sets victory on Oct. 13.