Naperville North’s veteran squad knocks off a young Plainfield Central team for regional title

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The youthful Plainfield Central girls volleyball team went toe-to-toe with second-seeded Naperville North in Thursday’s Class 4A Yorkville Regional title match, but eventually, the veterans prevailed.

North held off a charge from the upstart 10th seed and came away with a 27-25, 25-19 win to improve to 33-4 on the season. The Huskies will face Plainfield North, winners of the Metea Valley Regional title, in Tuesday’s Class 4A Plainfield South Sectional semifinal.

“(Plainfield Central) started the match really strong, really forcing us to play defense and run through some balls defensively and cover,” North coach Jen Urban said. “When we started doing those things, we started to find our middles in transition and score points.”

In the first set, Plainfield Central (19-20), upset winners over Neuqua Valley in Tuesday’s semifinal, was not intimidated. A string of four straight blocks built a 13-7 lead. The lead stood at 19-14 before North was able to get back into the match.

“We spent the last couple days watching video and trying to set up a good block,” Plainfield Central coach Erik Vogt said. “North did a great job readjusting against us. Their defense was the best we’ve seen all year.”

North called a timeout, down 19-14, and the Huskies took command from there. Two errors by Central, an ace, two kills and a block tied it at 20-20.

“We easily could have won the first set, but you could see our age in the streak we had where we missed out of the timeout, you’ll lose that match every time,” Vogt said. “That’s all North needed to have confidence after that.”

It went back-and-forth from there, but a kill from Megan Wernette and an error from Plainfield Central helped North escape with a 27-25 win.

“We told them that we wanted to keep the momentum on our side and right out of the gates control the tempo of the second set,” Urban said.

It took a little while, with the second set tied at 11-11, but North senior Emily Mankowski took over to put the Huskies in front for good. A block from her gave North the lead, 12-11, and then three of her team-high 14 kills, sandwiched around a pair of Wernette kills, gave North a 17-12 lead. The closest the Wildcats got again was 18-16.

“We were happy to see our hitters swinging for points in the second game,” Urban said.

With only four upperclassmen on the roster, the arrow is pointing up for Plainfield Central.

“I’m extremely excited for the future,” Vogt said. “I think Plainfield Central will be really exciting to watch the next couple of years.”

Meanwhile, North will face off against a Plainfield North squad that it beat in three sets early in the season.

“The girls are excited,” Urban said. “It’s going to be a great match. We saw them very early in the year, so we’re excited to see them again.”

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