LOMBARD – With its first 10 wins all coming in two sets, the Montini girls volleyball team hadn’t faced a ton of adversity in a dominant start to the 2021 season.
But faced with a strong challenge Wednesday night, the Lady Broncos passed that test with high marks.
Overcoming nine straight points by visiting Chicago Christian late in the second set, Montini improved to 11-1 on the season with a 25-14, 25-22 win over the Knights in Lombard.
“We’ve been working very hard in practice,” said junior Jordan Heatherly, whose kill ended the match, “and that intensity we’ve had at practice has carried over into the matches and I think it shows in those tough situations. We showed we can overcome the adversity of the other team coming back.”
The home team charged out to a 5-0 advantage in the first set and was never threatened. Montini then led by a seemingly comfortable 18-12 margin in the second before three aces and a kill by Logan Grevengoed helped Chicago Christian (14-3) jump in front 21-18.
A kill by Paige Pickering ended that run and a couple of kills by Heatherly and an ace from Pickering put the Lady Broncos back up to stay.
“It’s definitely been super exciting,” said Pickering of the team’s start to the season. “We have a few freshmen on the team and we lost a couple of seniors so adjusting was a little hard in the beginning. But it felt like we flipped a switch almost right away and came out with fire under our butts.
“We know we can get to state, we have that ability. We are getting contributions from everyone and we trust each other and that will get us far.”
Pickering finished with six kills and Madalyn Kasallis also had six kills. Ariana Joubert added three kills and Sophia Boumans contributed a pair of aces for Montini, which won its first conference match a day earlier against Fenwick.
“It’s crazy, we are all best friends on and off the court,” Heatherly said. “And that’s played a huge part with how our season is going. Everyone is each other’s No. 1 supporter and especially in the hard times, that can help put you over the top.
“Everybody is doing their part and the communication has been great along with our team chemistry. That’s why things have gone so well, we’ve been grinding so hard all season.”
The Lady Broncos, whose only loss came to Glenbard West in three sets in the championship match of the Wheaton North tournament, went 10-2 in the shortened Covid spring season earlier this year. They’ve carried that momentum right through the summer and into the fall.
“It’s been nice to see the momentum carry over,” Montini coach Trish Samolinski said. “We were able to train in the summer in normal fashion and were able to build on things we had done. It all kind of came together.
“Tonight we expected a tough match and we got that. We showed what kind of grit we have. We’ve played a lot of big schools and you need to focus on mental toughness to win those matches. We talk a lot about staying focused in our gym.”