Naperville Central was presented with a rare challenge Monday night.
The Redhawks hosted Washington County, a team from Springfield, Kentucky, that decided to play some out-of-state competition during its fall break.
Despite not knowing anything about their opponent, the Redhawks played one of their best games of the season in sweeping the Commanders 25-8, 25-11.
“I was definitely surprised at how the outcome was but they played hard and thanks to them for [playing us],” Naperville Central junior Samantha Herron said. “Them coming from Kentucky, I didn’t really know [what to expect].”
Neither team expected to see the utter dominance Naperville Central (9-9) displayed in the opener.
Herron spiked five of her six kills and 6-2 senior middle Phoebe Havenaar ripped off 12 straight service points, including six aces, as the Redhawks raced out to a 21-3 lead. Washington County (18-8) did not record a single kill or service point in Game 1.
“Ever since the beginning of the season our coaches have been working really hard with us on serving, getting our zones in because they believe that this will win games,” Havenaar said. “[Assistant coach] Hunter [Lee] gave us some nice placements.”
Havenaar doesn’t have a tough jump serve but the Commanders were flummoxed by her placement and spins. Two floaters hit the floor untouched during the run.
“[Lee] totally mixed it up,” said Havenaar, who finished with 15 service points and seven of her team’s 12 aces. “He’d give me a deep zone and then give me a short one. He was testing me to see if I could actually do what I’ve been practicing.”
“She had some nice serves,” Naperville Central coach Jeff Danbom said. “She was trying to pick them apart a little bit. That’s something we’ve been trying to work on in practice. Reading zones can sometimes be more effective than having a hard jump serve.”
Havenaar had plenty of help from her teammates in that regard. In Game 2, junior Claudia Wodziak served seven consecutive points, including two aces, while freshman Sarah Schank tallied eight points to go with seven kills. Schank, Herron and Camryn Murphy all added an ace, while setter Annie Davenport dished out 12 assists to go with three dump kills.
“It was nice to see our girls come out strong right from point one pretty much, kind of hit the accelerator and just go,” Danbom said.
Just as important, the Redhawks maintained their focus.
“We never let down,” Herron said. “Usually we kind of start to sink to the other team’s level and this game we just stayed fighting, we played hard, and shouts to Kentucky for driving all the way here. It was just a really good experience playing a team from out of state, and I just like the way we stuck together.”
Doing so in the face of the unknown was exciting for Havenaar.
“It was so awesome that they came up here to play us,” Havenaar said. “It reminded me a lot of nationals for club volleyball because you go down to Florida and sometimes you play teams from all around the country … so you never know how they’re going to be.”
Haley Browning had three kills to lead Washington County, which arrived in town Sunday and will play Wheaton North on Wednesday before returning home Thursday.
“[The Redhawks] are very solid,” Washington County coach Anne Mudd said. “We have a lot of teams of this caliber in Kentucky. We just didn’t play our game.”