SKOKIE — With its win over Niles North on Thursday, the Maine East girls volleyball team is now just one win away from clinching at least a share of its first conference championship since 2001.
Although Maine East’s mantra has been one point and one game at a time, according to coach Anne Bezek, junior outside hitter Maggie Chwieralski said it hasn’t been easy to tune out the Central Suburban North title talk.
“People in the hallways ask us about it, but [Bezek] drills it into our heads that we can’t take anything for granted,” Chwieralski said. “[Winning] conference has been one of our goals since the beginning of the season. We want it so badly, but we have to stay focused on the present.”
One of five returning starters from last season’s club, Chwieralski had the match-winning kill Thursday to cap a 6-1 closing stretch. She finished with three kills and eight digs in the Blue Demons’ 25-19, 25-22 conference victory over the Vikings.
Maine East (18-4, 7-0) remained undefeated in the CSL North while Glenbrook North and Highland Park entered Thursday tied for second in the league at 4-2.
“We built the foundation for this last year,” Chwieralski said. “Last year was when we said we wanted to get a whole new title for Maine East. We wanted other schools to know Maine East was good.”
Senior outside hitter Hannah Farley, senior setter Sarah Hua-Pham, junior middle Niki Ahlstrand and junior defensive specialist Miranda Duro are returning starters and joined Chwieralski on last year’s 17-win team. Bezek said it was Maine East’s first winning season since 2004, the last year the Blue Demons won a regional title.
“We set our standards high after last year,” Chwieralski said.
Bezek said all the players have contributed to this season’s success. In the win against the Vikings, Ahlstrand had a team-best five kills and Farley added four. Duro tied Chwieralski for team honors with eight digs, while Hua-Pham finished with 13 assists.
“We truly are a team,” Bezek said. “They all complement one another. There is no one person who does everything. We count on so many different players. Our balance is our strength.”
This is Bezek’s third stint as coach of the Blue Demons. Maine East won the CSL North in her first season in 2001, but she took the next year off to concentrate on graduate school. She then coached the Blue Demons in 2003 and 2004 before stepping away from 2005-11.
Bezek returned to the bench in 2012 at the urging of two former players.
“I didn’t think I was up for it, but this has made it worth coming back,” Bezek said. “It’s incredibly gratifying, but this doesn’t happen if the girls aren’t committed and dedicated. It’s taken a lot of support and a lot of like-minded people.
“It’s amazing to see.”
• The Vikings (11-15, 3-4) held leads in both games, including a 21-19 advantage in the second game.
• Senior right-side Amanda Green, who has verbally committed to Marquette, finished with a match-best seven kills. Former Vikings standout Taylor Louis is a freshman on the Golden Eagles volleyball team. Junior outside hitter Carolyn Dwyer added four kills, four aces and seven digs. Senior libero Amanda Aragon had eight digs.
This story has been changed to reflect the following correction:
The name of an outside hitter on the Maine East girls volleyball team was misspelled. It is Maggie Chwieralski, not Chwierlaski or Chwieralaski.