WHEATON – The stage was set for a big party at Wheaton North on Monday night.
At the entrance of Neibch Gym, there were nine poster boards filled with pictures — one for each senior player on the Wheaton North girls volleyball team.
Several pizzas and food trays were in an office waiting to be consumed, along with numerous flowers set to be handed out to the players.
All the Falcons had to do was add the dessert — a victory.
With a large crowd in attendance, the Falcons relied on a late comeback in the second set to pull out a thrilling 25-22, 26-24 victory over Lake Zurich.
Senior Allie Whitmer and junior Audrey Brcka both had five kills each, while seniors Caitlin Johnson and Isabel Phillips were strong at the net with three blocks apiece.
“The girls served-received so well today, definitely was our best total it has been all year,” Wheaton North coach Justin Hineman said. “They played so well and brought the energy tonight and really wanted to win. It was fantastic to see that energy and drive to make sure we got this closed out in two.”
Senior Marilyn Boyce said the two-set win was a fitting way for the seniors to end their home career. Boyce had a pivotal dig running away from the net that led to the Falcons’ grabbing a 24-22 lead in the first set.
“This was incredible,” Boyce said of Senior Night. “For me, I’ve been playing volleyball for eight years, so I’ve been waiting for this game for my entire volleyball career. To come out here and win, it’s overwhelming. It was great experience, seeing the team celebrate is amazing.”
Phillips started the match with a kill to spark the large crowd. She called the experiences bonding with her teammates off the court her favorite memories of her career.
“This means everything,” Phillips said. “We started out really nervous, but put it all together because we really wanted to win. We played strong at the end. We all were focused.”
In the first set, the Falcons (17-16) took advantage of some hitting errors by the Bears (14-20) to pull out the win. Brcka had three kills early in the second set to give the Falcons a slight cushion, but the Bears answered back on the strong play by Chelsea Williams, who had a team-high 10 kills. Whitmer had two key kills to late in the second set.
The Falcons closed out their rally by taking advantage of a service error along with Johnson sealing the win with a block.
Senior outside hitter Jarynn Hartman added nine kills and Heide Mason added 28 assists for the Bears.
“It was difficult coming into a gym like this, for it was an opportunity to see what playoffs will look like,” Lake Zurich coach Rachel Wiatrowski said. “Playoffs in our area tend to get very exciting. As a team, we have to work through it, so the loud noise was good for us to experience. It was a good match. We have a nice interchangeable squad. We’ve been making sure everybody has enough experience for the playoffs.”