Under the best of circumstances, underdog and short-handed volleyball teams from Oswego East and Yorkville would have had their hands full in Tuesday’s semifinals of the Class 4A Oswego East Regional.
With circumstances less than ideal, it showed in the results.
Glenbard West and Wheaton North took care of business, posting two-game wins to advance to Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. championship match.
Junior outside hitter Natalie Schilling put down 15 kills and the Hilltoppers, seeded second in the Class 4A Bartlett Sectional, were able to shake the pesky 13th-seeded Wolves 25-20, 25-14.
Senior setter Kelly Thornton then turned in a strong all-around game to guide the seventh seeded Falcons to a 25-18, 25-19 win over 10th-seeded Yorkville, which entered with just two losses.
“I credit the girls more than me,” Oswego East coach Adam Thurlwell said of his team’s gallant effort in a first game that featured ties at every point from 10 to 18 before the Hilltoppers finally strung three straight points together to take control.
The Wolves (16-14) were without one of their leading hitters due to a code of conduct suspension.
“We had some peaks and valleys but this is a great group of kids who tried to fight through adversity,” Thurlwell said. “Down 20-18 in that first game we had some poor decisions that could have made the point go the other way.
“(Glenbard West) did a lot better after that, picking up their serving and defense. They came out swinging for the fences and we took advantage, but they’re a fantastic team.”
Schilling, who is verbally committed to Duke, said the Wolves frustrated the Hilloppers (29-7) early.
“I think we were a little jittery, it being the first round of the playoffs and we had to get that out of our system,” she said.
Alison Burelbach added eight kills and 10 digs for the Hilltoppers, who got 29 assists from setter Kate Wagner.
“We thought we had a nice plan, but when you don’t execute at the beginning, it can cause a team to be tight,” Glenbard coach Peter Mastandrea said. “Especially to a well-coached team like that that
plays solid defense.”
Wheaton North (25-8) got a balanced attack, thanks to great distribution from Thornton. Junior outside Grace Tiesman had 10 kills, 6-2 sophomore Haley Horner added six and junior middle Abby Tiesman three kills and one block to go with senior middle Anna Grace’s two blocks.
“They’re a good team,” Wheaton North coach Carole Kristensen said of the Foxes (29-3). “But (libero) Erica Walker was exceptional and Thornton (22 assists) just runs a flawless offense.”
Yorkville coach Mike Dunn had to scramble his lineup a bit due to a shoulder injury to junior Chelsey Ellen that sidelined her for the final three matches of the season.
The Foxes rallied to within 20-19 in the second game before Wheaton North pulled away.
Jordan Albarran led Yorkville with five blocks and three kills. Sophomores Katie Nolan and Emily Gutzwiler had four and three blocks, respectively. Freshman Jenna Fosnacht, in her first varsity action, had four kills.
“(Wheaton North) is a phenomenal defensive team,” Dunn said. “A seventh seed? Shows how good this sectional is.
“We don’t lose much to graduation, so the good news is we’ll have a really strong core back. Senior Haley Koziol, though, leaves as the winningest player in program history. Teams she played on had 71 wins and two conference titles.”