Burlington Central, Allie O’Reilly cruise past Genoa-Kingston

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Burlington Central middle hitter Makenna Jensen refers to Rockets libero Allie O’Reilly as “the rock.”

The rock fell on Genoa-Kingston Thursday night in the Cogs’ Class 3A regional finals.

O’Reilly’s serving and her backcourt play helped inspire a Burlington Central landslide in a 25-15, 25-14 victory for the school’s first regional volleyball title since 2008.

“She’s always our leader out there,” Central coach Marv Leavitt said of O’Reilly, a UIC recruit.

O’Reilly finished with 15 digs and 15 serving points, including an 11-point Set 2 run that resulted in an 18-5 lead.

“It was just a good safety net because we knew we could relax and just play volleyball and do what we do,” O’Reilly said. “It helped us settle in a little bit because the second game is always hard to win.

“The safety net felt good and I think that’s what helped us take off.”

O’Reilly wasn’t the only Rocket serving well on the night. Outside hitter Lauren Wiltsie recorded four aces.

Top-seeded Central (26-11) focused its attack on Cogs libero Olivia Cotton, and did it well enough for Jenna Schudel to come up with six kills and Wiltsie and Jensen with four each.

“Olivia, their libero, is great so we knew how to base our offense around her,” O’Reilly said. “We were hitting deep and tipping them off and keeping them on their toes.”

Central’s defense excelled as well. Jensen had three blocks and Schudel two, and back row players Aly Detamble and Jenna Runde produced nine digs each, with Runde going 8-for-8 on serve receive.

“That’s pretty close to as good as we’ve been,” said Jensen after Rockets fans flooded the court in celebration. “We had a lot of confidence because we beat them twice, but we knew Genoa-Kingston had gotten better — so have we.”

The win put Central on its own court for sectional against either Lakes or Grayslake Central at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“It gets fun right now, it really does,” said Leavitt, who also coached the 2008 Rockets team that finished second in the state. “You just step up and every time you’re playing with tougher competition and  that’s when it’s fun.”

The third-seeded Cogs (19-18), who upset St. Edward on Tuesday, had 19 digs from Cotton and seven kills by Bridget Halat, but never achieved much momentum.

“They just kind of brought it tonight,” Cogs coach Keith Foster said of Central. “Burlington Central played a great match. They were active and were beating our blocks with their swings, hitting it harder than us and moving faster.

“I wouldn’t say we played a terrible game, but they made us play uncomfortable.”

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