Crystal Lake South was playing without three starters last week and fell behind for the first time all season against crosstown rival Crystal Lake Central but still found a way to a 21-25, 25-21, 25-22 victory over the defending Fox Valley Conference champions, keeping its perfect record intact.
Paired with Cary-Grove’s win over Huntley that same night, the Gators moved into sole possession of first place in the FVC. South has not won a conference championship since winning back-to-back FVC Valley titles in 2013 and 2014.
The FVC Valley and Fox divisions were combined in the fall of 2016 and three teams have gone on to win all five conference titles since. Huntley (2016, 2019) and Central (2017, spring 2021) have won two apiece while Prairie Ridge (2018) has won one.
In last week’s comeback win against Central, South was missing its starting setter (Emma Stowasser), libero (Alyssa Zagroba) and outside hitter (Gabby Wire) but had others step up, including varsity debuts from setter Faith Gruenwald and libero Kaitlyn Brandt. Sophomore outside hitter Morgan Jones, who played on varsity in the spring, also had a big match with eight kills and 14 digs.
“This is the first time we’ve come out and we’ve been down to start,” Gators coach Jorie Fontana said of the win against the Tigers. “To see them bounce back, stay aggressive and pull together as a team, it was a super proud moment. It gives them added confidence, because volleyball players can get inside their heads at times. They tend to think in terms of, ‘X Y Z,’ for them to believe they’re going to be successful.”
Senior middle blocker Mia Regillio said the Gators were really looking forward to their rematch with Central, which beat South in the FVC tournament championship match in the spring. South (7-0, 7-0 FVC) figured to be one of the top returning teams this fall and has played like it.
“This is good motivation for us, and it just shows that not matter the circumstances, we can get through it and anything can happen,” Regillio said.
[ High school volleyball: Crystal Lake South rallies to beat Crystal Lake Central in 3 sets, stays undefeated ]
The Gators kept their undefeated season going Tuesday with 25-23, 25-19 win over McHenry after trailing 23-20 in the first set. South plays Thursday at Prairie Ridge and finishes the first half of the FVC schedule against Huntley next week.
Fontana said this year’s team, which returned all but one from the spring, is one of the closest she has had.
“My history at Crystal Lake South, I’ve had all kinds of teams,” Fontana said. “What’s nice is that these girls, they are just great girls, they get along and they want to work hard for me. They want to work hard for each other.”
Double digits for the Thunder: Woodstock North became the first area team to reach 10 wins with a sweep over Waukegan on Tuesday. North (10-2) now has won nine in a row since a 1-2 start. Over the weekend, North won the Antioch Invite title with a perfect 5-0 record, including a two-set win against Burlington Central. Earlier in the week, the Thunder extended their KRC winning streak to 15 with a sweep over Harvard.
Senior outside hitter Alyssa Wickersheim surpassed 500 career kills in Tuesday’s victory over Waukegan, while junior setter Kylie Schulze surpassed 1,000 career assists earlier this year and now is the team’s all-time leader in that category.
Chargers grab first FVC win: Dundee-Crown picked up a 25-23, 17-25, 25-20 victory against Prairie Ridge on Tuesday, giving the Chargers their first conference win of the season. D-C had dropped its first six FVC matches but had played many of those close, including three-set losses to Cary-Grove and Hampshire.
“We’ve been chipping away every game, and I am just so proud of the team,” D-C first-year coach Tiffany Dumas said. “Our net play kept us ahead in the third set. We pressed the block and we were ready on the cover. Tonight was a great example of hard work and determination.”
Trojans big ‘W’: Cary-Grove may have delivered the biggest surprise win of the year so far, knocking off previously undefeated Huntley, 25-23, 26-24, on the Red Raiders’ home court.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t that surprising.
After C-G lost to Prairie Ridge in straight sets last week, Trojans coach Patty Langanis noted how the 10-team FVC has become a little more unpredictable this season. C-G then went out and defeated Huntley in two sets.
“I feel like second half anyone can beat anyone,” Langanis said. “Everyone that’s played Huntley has a feeling in their gut that all they have to do is make a few adjustments, and they might have had them. It will be interesting how it will all pan out.”