There would be no last-minute heroics by Neuqua Valley this night.St. Charles North, which could not protect a 24-21 lead in the third game of last week’s 11-25, 25-22, 26-24 regular-season loss to Neuqua Valley, built an insurmountable 20-11 lead in Game 3 of Tuesday’s regional semifinal in Naperville and held on to beat the Wildcats, 25-17, 23-25, 25-15.
The victory sends St. Charles North (27-9) into Thursday’s Class 4A Neuqua Valley Regional championship match against Benet (35-1), which defeated Batavia 25-18, 25-13 earlier in the evening.
Few doubted that St. Charles North and Neuqua Valley would go three games Tuesday, even after the North Stars coasted to a big first-game win. The teams had played to the limit while splitting their previous two meetings.
“The first time we played them, we won in three sets,” St. Charles North coach Lindsey Hawkins said. “We’re two very evenly matched teams who always seem to get into a dogfight.”
The difference, Hawkins said, was the North Stars’ defense in the third game.
“Our blocking really came alive in the third set,” she said. “I thought in the second set they kind of found our weakness. They were hitting line on us a lot. We were having a hard time picking that up, so we adjusted to it in the third set and that’s what made our blocking come alive.”
St. Charles North middle blocker Kailey Grove led the suffocating net defense with six blocks.
“This time, I felt like we had a lot more fight and we were really confident that we could win,” Grove said. “We thought we were going to win the last match, but they ended up coming back on us. So we just fought hard the whole time [Tuesday].”
Daley Krage led St. Charles North with 12 kills, Claire Anderson added nine kills, Jaclyn Fisher had nine assists and three digs, and Taryn Dal Degan added seven assists and five digs.
Kaelan Haag had nine kills and 14 assists for Neuqua Valley (25-11), and Abby Skryd and Claire Grove each had nine kills.
In the opener, Dana Griffin and Veronica Snelling each had eight kills, Natalie Canulli had 11 digs and Sara Nielsen added 25 assists as Benet advanced.
“They (Batavia) were doing a nice job when they were out of system,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “They were trying to get us out of system, trying to make a play. We did a nice job just not getting frustrated even if they were tipping or rolling. We were just taking the ball and taking care of our side.”
Anna Clausen led Batavia (13-24) with seven kills, Maddy Astling added four kills, Madie Jaudon had seven digs and Sam Bradle contributed 14 assists.