Northside College Prep started well and ended well but neither was good enough to beat Larkin on Tuesday.
After building an early lead, Northside watched Larkin go on an 8-0 scoring run to take control of Game 1 en route to a 25-16 win. Larkin then built a late lead in Game 2 and withstood a late surge by the Mustangs, winning 25-21 on a Natalie Kofie kill.
The win sends 10th-seeded Larkin to Thursday’s title game of the Class 4A Larkin Regional. The Royals will play top-seeded Loyola, which won 25-15, 25-16 over No. 17 Rolling Meadows in the night’s first match.
“We started slow in the first game but then we limited our mistakes,” Larkin’s Danielle Newquist said. “We started to pick out their weaknesses and go on based on that.”
Newquist swung a big arm in Game 1 and finished with five kills, two assists, and six digs. But it was time spent serving by April McGhee that did in the Mustangs.
With Larkin (12-24) trailing 11-8, McGhee moved her serve around well, getting two aces to go with kills from Newquist and Kofie as the Royals took a 17-11 lead and never looked back.
Larkin led 6-0 in Game 2 early and built a 23-12 lead before No. 8 Northside (14-14-3) played with pride down the stretch.
An ace from the Mustangs’ Gabbie Banez got things rolling and kills from Fallon Konow and Lauren McManus helped them close Larkin’s lead to 24-21.
That’s when Kofie found a hole in the middle of a pack of Mustangs to end the night.
“It wasn’t typical of the way we played in the second half of our season but that’s sports,” Northside coach Nicole Flores said. “It’s whoever shows up.
“We made basic skill mistakes and had a lack of intensity. Our fire showed in the last five minutes of the second game but by then it was too late.”
Larkin coach Henry Graack was happy with the way his side played on Thursday.
“Serving, serve-receive, defense — those three areas were pretty strong all game long,” Graack said. “Those should be our strong points and it was good to see us play to our strengths.
“We don’t have one big hitter so we’ve had to trust our team all year to spread the offense around,” Graack said. “We have to keep the other team guessing.”
Kofie posted another typically strong stat line with 18 assists, three kills, three digs and one block. Amelia Gill had nine digs, four kills, and one block, and Ella Roland led Larkin in kills with seven, and had two digs.
McGhee also had more serves received than the rest of Larkin’s team combined, and finished with 10 digs, five assists, two aces, and a 1.94 serve-receive average.
“April had a good serve run in the second game and her serve-receive overall was really good,” Graack said. “She made some really nice plays to keep some balls alive.”