Crystal Lake South ends state semifinal drought

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One by one Crystal Lake South’s attackers stepped forward and applied their own signatures to the school’s first state berth since 1996.

Then junior outside Carly Nolan applied the biggest signature in the form of seven second-set kills and the Gators denied Lake Zurich with a 25-18, 25-18 victory and the Huntley Class 4A Supersectional trophy.

“Our theme this year was meet us at the top and it was about working hard, but knowing where we wanted to be,” South coach Jonie Fontana said.

Where South will be next is Normal at Redbird Arena Friday at 7:30 for a state semifinal match against Benet.

“From the beginning of the season this was our goal,” said South senior middle hitter Nicole Slimko. “We were striving to hit this point, the whole entire season pushing hard.”

The Gators (37-3) began their push in each set early, breaking out from an 11-10 lead in the with a 6-0 run that decided the first set. In the second set, an 8-1 run broke a 4-4 tie and Lake Zurich (35-5) never got closer than four again.

Slimko had five kills in the first set and Sara Mickow and Avalon Nero three each, while Nolan started getting warmed up near the end of the set with two of the final three points on kills.

In the second set, Nolan had four of the Gators’ final five kills.

“Sometimes she’ll come up strong, but our goal right from the start was to diversify our offense,” Fontana said. “Most people knowing us will know Carly is the top hitter, or so-and-so is a top hitter and so we were setting up a nice, diverse offenst that opened up more opportunities for (Nolan) later in the match.”

Nolan finished with nine total kills, Slimko with eight and Nero with six.

“We definitely work each time at coming out as strong as we can and then somebody takes over — Slim (Slimko), Av (Nero) or anyone,” Nolan said.

Although South had just two errors in the second set, Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello didn’t think either team had a particularly sharp match offensively. Instead, he lauded the Gators’ block and overall defense.

“We were passing to about the 5-, 10-foot line and we weren’t really able to establish our middle at all and that hurt us because they’ve got big blocks — Nicole’s a good blocker,” he said. “They were able to see where we were going and we weren’t able to keep up.”

Stats or strategy ultimately meant little to the Gators as their fans flooded the court and players held the supersectional plaque. They had achieved their season-long goal.

“There’s no words to desribe how I feel right now, I’m so excited and so pumped up for this,” Slimko said. “It’s amazing.”

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