Senior setter Rachel Kaczorowski has been playing in the Maine West Pumpkin Tournament for her entire four-year career at Jacobs.
Her final one on Saturday will be the one she never forgets, nor will the Golden Eagles.
They made it all the way to the championship match of the tradition-rich girls volleyball invite before falling to powerful Lyons Township, 25-12, 25-11, in the championship match.
The Lions (27-2) have lost only to Montini (two times in September) and won their second invite this fall, along with one third-place finish under third-year coach Jill Bober.
Jacobs was fourth in its own invite and fifth in the 16-team Huntley tourney earlier this season.
“In years past, we’ve never really even been close to winning a plaque,” said Kaczorowski, who handed out 21 assists in the title match. “Our senior group has never won a plaque. Oh my gosh, we’re really happy with how we played in this tournament. It’s a huge accomplishment. This tells us we can be a great team for next week and once we start the state tournament.”
First-year coach Mike Depa has started his career with a 20-win season, reaching that mark in the semifinals when the Golden Eagles (20-9) topped Libertyville in three sets.
“I loved how we played here,” said the former Jacobs freshman coach. “There were some ups and downs and we had to play three sets a bunch of times. We had some closely-fought sets, especially with Libertyville when we lost the first one.”
Jaclyn Poirier (25 kills), Ireland Van Stone (19) and Sara Wasner (16) led Jacobs’ attack while libero Meredith Giustino collected 51 digs, followed by Kaczorowski (31) and Van Stone (25). Wasner served 8 aces.
“I’m super proud of how tough and resilient the girls have been playing,” Depa added. “Even though we’ll get down, the kids never quit. Rachel is a vocal leader out there. She keeps everyone engaged in the games, focused and ready to play.”
In the third-place match, Libertyville (21-12) avenged an earlier two-set loss to Hersey with a 24-26, 31-29, 25-20 triumph.
“I’m really proud of our girls hanging in there against a team that really wiped us off the floor a month ago at our place,” said Wildcats coach Greg Loika, whose team is 18-4 since a 3-8 start. “After we both lost in the semifinals, anything could have happened so I’m really happy with how we rebounded. Hersey is a strong team and I’m happy with our performance today.”
The third set was tied at 15 when Libertyville took the lead for good on a kill by Ashley Branford. Hannah Fleming then served 4 straight points for a 20-16 advantage.
Keira Kasten led the Wildcats with 12 kills, followed by Branford (10), Fleming (6) and Margot Kaufman (4). Setting duties were handled by Grace Bonjour (16 assists) and Fleming (20 assists, 3 aces). Grace Comilla made 21 digs and Kelly Hutchins had 3 blocks.
“We were limping into the playoffs three weeks ago,” added Loika, whose team is 13-2 in three tourneys this season. “Now we feel we’re a team that other teams don’t want to face. We feel good about that and the way we played today.”
Hersey (25-4) played without starters Kami Wojtanek (illness) and Erin Dela Riva (ankle).
“Erin could have played but we made a choice to rest her, feeling it was more important to have her ready for the (Mid-Suburban League title match Thursday at Fremd),” said Hersey coach Nancy Lill. “This was a match to gain experience. We weren’t going to risk the future. Libertyville played well and we couldn’t execute.”
Sophomore Claire van den Herik put down 18 kills, the highest by a Hersey attacker all season.
“She was incredible,” Lill said. “And her sister Juliette (former Hersey middle hitter now at Embry-Riddle in Florida.) was here and got to watch.”
On Friday night, Lill watched Dela Riva set a Hersey record for aces in a match. Dela Riva served up 10 in a win over Wheeling, breaking the former mark set by Jodi Blazek.
Carmel took fifth place in Des Plaines with a two-set win over Maine South.
It marks the 10th time in 11 years Carmel coach David Pazely has led the Corsairs (20-14) to at least 20 wins.
“Our libero Milana Moisio, our setter Julia Shrofe and middles stepped up for us this weekend. They got a lot of touches and a lot more blocks than usual. So seeing them come alive and also offensively, is going to help us in the long run when we get into the playoffs.”
Maine South assistant coach Katherine Miles said overall the Hawks (16-18) had a “pretty good tournament” as it was once again led by its seniors.
“We have seven seniors and each one contributes in a major way,” Mile said. “Elizabeth Ryser is our middle and has been just a fantastic player every season she has been at Maine South. We have two senior setters (Bella Karnazas and Madison Wright) and they’ve done phenomenal, too. Madeleine Riggs is our right side hitter and she puts up a huge block. So when she and Riggs are together, it’s unstoppable. Aiden Lefler has been on varsity the last three years and watching her grow has been great. And Michelle (Luszczewski) has also been a big factor. She plays different positions. We are going to lose some incredible seniors. It was a great tournament for them.”
Conant (16-15) went 2-3 in the tourney and placed eighth after falling to Sandburg in its final match.
“I thought it was a good tournament to prepare us for regional play,” said Conant coach Drewann Pancratz. “We showed moments when we played really well and then we saw areas where we have to work. Emily Ytsen was on fire Friday night. She really stepped up when we went three sets with Hersey. Farah (Cisse) and Gia (Gianna Spekta) passed well and Emily played really well in the middle.”