FRANKFORT – When Maggie Simon went to the service line in Monday night’s opening game, Lincoln-Way East was down by a point. By the time she was done, the Griffins had a six-point lead and were on their way to a successful evening.
“I had a lot of adrenaline going,” Simon said. “I was very excited. I kind of went in with the mindset of, ‘Let’s get it over with. Be aggressive.’ I tried to hit the zone my coach was telling me to hit. I did a little drop serve, and I was excited about that.
“In practice, I feel like I focus more when I’m serving. I do my little serving routine, and I’m like, ‘Let’s get it over, let’s be aggressive, and let’s try to get an ace.’”
Simon’s serving sparked a turnaround in the opener and host Lincoln-Way East went on to a 25-18, 25-22 win over Joliet Catholic in a nonconference match, avenging an earlier loss to the Angels.
“We lost to them the first time (Aug. 26), but we were super hyped and building momentum going into this game,” Griffins sophomore Alaina Pollard said. “Then in the game, it was just taking care of business, doing your job. Everyone plays their own part, and it worked out.”
Pollard had six kills to lead the Griffins (9-7). Simon finished with 13 assists and four aces, Lexi Byas added 13 digs, and Hayven Smith chipped in four blocks and three kills.
Ellie Blotnik led Joliet Catholic (12-6) with six kills and four digs. Olivia Chovanec finished with three kills and three digs, and Jess Horn had 12 assists.
Joliet Catholic went on a 6-0 run to turn a 15-11 deficit into a 17-15 lead in the opening game. But the Griffins responded by scoring the next eight points, the final seven of them coming on Simon’s serves. She had three aces during the surge.
“She’s doing a great job distributing the ball,” Lincoln-Way East coach Sean Burns said of Simon. “Her serving has really improved, too. She’s gotten us a lot of points on the serve. I’ve seen her improve in all aspects of the game since last year. Her defense has improved, too.”
After getting extensive playing time as a freshman on varsity last season, when she shared setting duties with senior Grace Poynton, Simon has felt ready to take on the full responsibility this season after Poynton’s graduation.
“I’m very comfortable,” Simon said. “I love this team so much. I think last year, some of the girls helped me, talked me through it and helped me get through the season. Now we have an even bigger bond, and I’m being more comfortable, more aggressive and trying to be a team leader on the court since I’m setting and making all the plays.”
Joliet Catholic fought back from an 18-13 deficit to pull into a 20-all tie in the second game, but the Griffins took control again late, making it a tough night for the Angels.
“We couldn’t get anything going, and then we were trying to force things,” Joliet Catholic Kisha Cameron said. “We weren’t moving on fast enough. I think we were getting frustrated and letting that control the pace of the game and you can’t win like that. We’ll start the day again [Tuesday] and try it again.”
Lincoln-Way East, on the other hand, was proud of the way it responded after the Angels’ attempted comebacks in both games.
Pollard – like Simon a sophomore who gained experience last season – had three big kills to help close out the match.
“It was us working together as a team,” Pollard said. “I always give credit to my passers and my setters. I just have to get up there and be big, use everything I’ve learned thanks to my coaches and my family.”