After an impressive rally from a six-point deficit, Batavia was on the verge of sending Thursday’s regular-season finale at Waubonsie Valley to a third game.
The host Warriors, however, were not about to be denied a coveted Senior Night victory.
Brooke Burling spiked three of her six kills and three other players had one each down the stretch to help Waubonsie Valley finish off a 25-20, 26-24 victory.
“They’re a good, scrappy team,” Waubonsie Valley coach Kristen Didier said. “They got a lot of block touches, they dug a lot of balls, and their libero [Maddie Jaudon] is fantastic.
“I thought their defense was scrappy and made us work for it, and that’s fun.”
It was certainly fun for the fans who were treated to spirited play from both sides.
Batavia (12-23) battled for every point, but the Warriors looked to be in command after running out to a 19-14 lead in Game 2. That’s when the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run on Katelynn Fegan’s serve, during which Didier burned both of her timeouts.
“I switched back to a 5-1 in the last third of that last game,” Didier said. “That seemed to get us some momentum.”
With senior setter Lauren Hiller running the show, the Warriors (22-13) got back on track when senior Becky Breuer blasted an explosive kill.
After Batavia regained a two-point lead at 22-20 on a hitting error, Hiller set Burling for back-to-back kills to tie the game.
“I think that one kill that Brooke had after we switched up our rotation a little bit, it really changed our momentum and gave us a lot of energy going into those last few points,” Hiller said. “We just really had to push hard.”
The Bulldogs went ahead briefly on a kill by Jenna Garrett, but Caroline Cordes and Taylor Dunwell had kills to put Waubonsie ahead 24-23.
A Waubonsie hitting error kept Batavia alive, but Burling landed a kill off an assist from senior libero Sydney Slevin and then served the final point, which ended with a Batavia hitting error.
“[Didier] talked to us about how someone’s got to step up, [we’ve] got to swing and stop tipping, because that will give us momentum to finish out this game,” Hiller said. “That’s what happened and it worked.”
Hiller finished with 19 assists in her final home game. Breuer led all hitters with eight kills, while Burling and Cordes had six kills each and Dunwell five. Slevin had 14 digs and Burling added six.
“It means so much to all of us,” Hiller said. “We worked so hard all season leading up to this. We’ve all been looking forward to it for the longest time and it just feels great to be able to finish on a strong note.”
Despite the loss, Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne also felt good.
“This is the toughest we’ve played them here on their own floor or even overall, so I’m really proud of the way we played,” Trippi-Payne said. “They just have a little bit more offense than we do. We don’t have the hitters that Breuer and Burling and Caroline Cordes are, but we have nothing to be sorry for.”
Maddie Astling had six kills and Sam Bradle dished 13 assists to lead the Bulldogs, who have played tough against a strong schedule, taking St. Francis, St. Charles East and Naperville North to three games.
“Our record does not reflect the way we’ve played,” Trippi-Payne said. “These kids have played hard.”