CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake South isn’t used to being the team everyone else is chasing, but the Gators are starting to like it how it feels.
Prairie Ridge was the latest opponent to give South its best shot when the crosstown rivals met Thursday in Fox Valley Conference play. The Gators, as they have all season, found their way past another hungry opponent, this time with a 17-25, 25-22, 25-22 comeback win on the road to keep their undefeated season alive.
South (8-0 overall, 8-0 FVC) can finish a perfect first half of the FVC schedule with a win against Huntley (8-1, 7-1) on Tuesday.
“We’re not used to this at all,” senior middle blocker Megan Langdon said after the victory. “We’ve never really been here. It’s a lot harder being undefeated and having the pressure of always having to win, but it’s fun. And the fans help so much.”
The Gators enjoyed a lively fan section, which matched the players’ energy on the court with every big point. The visiting fans were at their loudest after Jessie Proszenyak’s match-clinching block, which came moments after the senior outside hitter had back-to-back kills with South trailing, 22-20.
Two of South’s past three matches have gone to three sets, with the Gators needing to win the final two sets.
“I think we’re in a position now that everybody knows we’re on top, so you’re facing teams that have nothing to lose,” Gators coach Jorie Fontana said. “They get to come out a little care free and our girls are showing a little bit of nervousness because there’s some pressure to perform and be at a certain level.
“I think they did an excellent job of coming out in the second set and kind of saying, ‘We’re not backing down,’ so that was really cool.”
Proszenyak led the Gators with nine kills, 10 digs and two aces, Langdon added five kills and four blocks, and sophomore outside hitter Morgan Jones had nine kills. Alyssa Zagroba had nine digs, Ashley Ciezadlo had six blocks, Mia Regillio tallied six kills and four blocks, and Faith Gruenwald had 31 assists.
South again was missing starting setter Emma Stowasser because of injury, as well as outside hitter Gabby Wire, but the Gators did have Zagroba, who was making her first start after a two-week absence.
Ciezadlo, who was called up to varsity late in the spring, has helped make up for the loss of Wire, one of the Gators’ top hitters.
“I’m just happy to be showcasing what I have and helping the team out,” said Ciezadlo, a senior. “It’s just so much fun to be a part of and playing on the court with these girls. We all want to win.”
Fontana has been pleasantly surprised by her team’s depth, which has been a key to the team’s success so far.
“This match could have gone either way for a lot of it,” Fontana said. “But they’re doing a great job. What I was a little worried about at the beginning of the season was our depth, and now that we’re kind of forced to figure it out, I think it’s only going to help us in the long run.”
Ansley Morlock led the Wolves with 12 kills, Grace Jansen recorded 15 assists, McKenna Richardson had eight blocks, and Haylee Yelle had eight kills. Rilee Schulze had 11 assists, and Maya Breseman had four aces and 11 digs.
Prairie Ridge (3-8, 3-5) was coming off two losses Wednesday at the Wheaton Warrenville South Tournament and is in the beginning stages of a new lineup.
“They were hungry for a win,” Wolves coach Stefanie Otto said of her team’s effort Thursday. “We had some ugliness yesterday with our new lineup and they made some really good adjustments today, so I’m just really proud of them.
“[South] just has a lot of weapons, and they really picked up their blocking against us. We’ve got to be able to see that better and hit better shots. We’ve lost a couple of sets now when we just don’t make good choices at the end.”