Whatever Megan Wernette and Naperville North were missing, they found just in the nick of time.
Helped by a huge run midway through Game 2, the Huskies turned back an inspired Naperville Central effort for an 18-25, 25-21, 25-14 win in a Class 4A Geneva Regional semifinal Tuesday.North advances to play Geneva, a 23-25, 25-17, 25-23 winner over Metea Valley, in Thursday’s final.“Central dominated that first game,” said Wernette, a senior middle. “It was important for us to find that sense of urgency.”Find it they did, down a game and trailing 17-13 in the second after back-to-back Phoebe Havenaar aces for Central (18-19).Jenna LaCorte landed one of her nine kills to give North (26-9) the serve back, sparking the match-turning 9-1 run. Wernette’s clever tap gave the Huskies the lead, and she smashed an overpass for one of her nine kills and a 22-18 advantage.All the emotion swayed over North’s side, and stayed that way when freshman Ari Budnik’s kill started a 9-1 run early in Game 3.“It’s the best we’ve seen Central play,” North coach Jennifer Urban said. “The third game is what we’re more capable of.”North swept Central during the regular season, but this was a different Redhawks team. Sam Herron was sensational in pounding 13 kills, Havenaar had six kills and two blocks, and freshman Sarah Schank four kills.“The girls came out fired up,” Central coach Jeff Danbom said. “It didn’t matter who they were playing. They wanted this one.”It was a rare regional match between the two city rivals. The two met two years ago in a regional semifinal, but hadn’t met this early in the playoffs in at least 15 years prior to that.Needless to say, North couldn’t have been thrilled to see its lower-seeded rivals a third time.“It was a tough draw,” Urban said. “Whenever we play them, the records are thrown out the door.”Earlier Geneva (29-7), which won its first sectional title last year, survived a serious upset bid from Metea (18-13).The Vikings dropped the first game, and trailed in the early stages of both of the next two. Ally Barrett had 14 kills and fellow sophomore Grace Loberg 13 for the Vikings.“No match is a gimme in this sectional,” Geneva coach Annie Seitelman said. “We have three conference champions coming out of the same regional. The road is not easy and that’s what we told our kids.”Tied at 23-23, the match came down to two close calls. Loberg angled in a kill off a defender, despite complaints of a double-contact violation on the set. At match point, a spike by Metea’s Lexie Lobdell went long as her coaches claimed that the ball was tipped.“It’s hard to lose on those,” Metea coach Dave MacDonald said. “I thought it was a double, I asked him after the match and he said it was a clean set. There was a touch at the end, but it’s a game of inches.”MacDonald couldn’t complain of his girls’ effort, led by Lobdell’s 15 kills and 11 digs from Autumn Long.“I’m so proud of those girls,” MacDonald said. “They fought hard against a great Geneva team.”