It’s been a maddening season for Downers North, which has shown flashes of brilliance interwoven with periods of frustrating inconsistency.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and down this season,” senior outside hitter Grace Larson said. “I think our lineups have been a little shaky and we’ve been trying out a new offense this year. But I think we finally found something that works for us.”
What worked for Downers North against West Suburban Silver foe Glenbard West on Tuesday was a steady diet of Larson and junior outside hitter Leah Rogoz, who combined for 25 kills to lead the Trojans to a 25-20, 25-21 victory in Downers Grove.
“The whole point of our offense is to run the middle and separate the blocks so our pinhitters are open,” Larson said. “It worked tonight.”
Downers North (15-11, 3-2) broke a 15-15 tie in Game 1 with a 4-0 run capped by consecutive kills by Rogoz. Alison Burelbach’s kill got the Hilltoppers within 22-20 and forced a Downers North timeout, but Larson put the game out of reach with three straight kills coming out of the stoppage.
Between games, Downers North coach Mark Wasik preached focus to his team.
“We’ve had an up and down season, and it comes back to focus,” he said. “We purposely focused on making sure we stayed focused in between Games 1 and 2. They were almost silent because they were just staying focused on what their jobs were going to be coming up.
“That’s really nice to see because we tend to lose a little bit of focus after we win a first game. It was nice to see them maintain that even keel mentality, and it showed on the court.”
Downers North built a 14-7 lead in Game 2, but Glenbard West (18-5, 3-2) pulled to within 22-20 behind junior outside Natalie Schilling, who had seven of her team-high eight kills in the second set. But that was as close as the Hilltoppers would get.
Rogoz put the icing on the win with her 15th kill of the match off a feed from Mary Helen Beacom (28 assists). Larson finished with 10 kills.
Burelbach added five kills for Glenbard West and Kate Wagner added 17 assists, three aces and three kills.
“We didn’t play well and they played great,” Glenbard West coach Pete Mastandrea said. “I think we came in a little overconfident and didn’t give them enough credit and they took it to us. Hats off to the victors. They were the better team by far tonight.
“Our blocking was soft. Our serving was soft. We played scared. Now we just have to focus on finishing strong and getting better, because we have a lot to work on after that match.”