WOODSTOCK – Woodstock North had a letdown nine days ago in a loss to Richmond-Burton, ending a 19-match winning streak in the Kishwaukee River Conference, and started Wednesday’s match against Johnsburg a little out of sync.
But once the Thunder found their groove, there wasn’t much the Skyhawks could do to stop North, which ran away with a 25-16, 25-9 victory to capture the KRC title for the second year in a row and second time in program history.
Marengo went on to beat Richmond-Burton in three sets Wednesday, which gave the Thunder (20-6, 8-1 KRC) the outright KRC championship. The Rockets (11-15, 6-3) entered play Wednesday a match behind North but no longer can catch the Thunder with only one match left.
North returned its entire starting lineup from the COVID-19-shortened spring season, when it finished a perfect 10-0 in the KRC. Wednesday’s win also gave the Thunder their fourth straight season with 20 or more wins (not counting the spring).
“I think it says a lot about this group,” North coach Eric Schulze said. “They’ve been pretty good for a really long time and have had us competing at the the top of the conference for the better part of 2 1/2 seasons.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment and something they’ll always remember, but we do have bigger goals in mind, and those goals are going to be a little more challenging this year than they ever have been.”
After finishing the regular season in less than two weeks, North will look to win its third straight regional title but likely will see Fox Valley Conference leader Crystal Lake South (22-3) in the final, if both teams make it that far.
For now, the Thunder will enjoy Wednesday’s win.
The KRC title was something this year’s group of eight seniors was especially looking forward to.
“It’s just amazing because last year we had such a weird year, and being able to finish now with something somewhat normal is great,” said senior outside hitter Faith Eddy, who had five kills and seven aces in Wednesday’s win. “Even going into last year, our goal for our senior year was to win conference and regionals, and we’re on our way.
“It’s bittersweet that this is the last time we’re going to have a chance to go out and win something. It just makes me so proud of my team and everything we’ve put into it.”
Eddy helped finish an 11-2 run in the first set for the Thunder by recording four kills for four of her team’s final five points of the set. She then went on an eight-point service run in the second set that included a whopping six aces.
The Thunder finished with 16 aces total.
“Faith’s that kid,” Schulze said. “She’s very streaky, but when she’s on, she hits a really heavy ball and she can do some damage and get us points in bunches.”
Kylie Schulze finished with 15 assists, eight digs, four aces and two kills; Alyssa Wickersheim had eight kills, four digs and three aces; and Avery Crabill added three kills, an ace and block. Katie Wickersheim added five digs for North.
Kylie Schulze said the team’s loss to R-B served as an important lesson as the postseason approaches.
“We can’t go onto the court going through the motions, not play hard for everything and expect to win,” Schulze said. “They weren’t going to shut it down for us. They wanted to win, too. They wanted to take the conference title from us. They’re going to come after us, and we also have to turn it on.”
Johnsburg was led by Gracie Notriano with two kills, three digs and an ace, one kill apiece from Kaylee Fouke and Sophie Person, and an ace each from Delaney Stern and Emmy Wizceb.
Johnsburg coach Abby Bruns said the Skyhawks are searching for a consistent lineup.
“It all came down to passing. We couldn’t get the ball up,” Bruns said. “We’ve got to turn around and clean it up.”