Four-year varsity player Dakota Santore described herself as “timid” her first three years at Plainfield North.
Not any more.
“I’ve been trying to step up and be more of a leader,” the senior said Thursday after leading the Tigers to their second straight regional championship, beating host Metea Valley 25-20, 25-18.
The 5-8 outside hitter put down a match-high 12 kills and joined libero Madison Zyburt in anchoring steady back-row play.
The Tigers (33-4) move on to Tuesday’s second Plainfield South Class 4A Sectional semifinal against Yorkville Regional champ Naperville North.
“I think we’ve got some really good senior leadership that really helped with our composure,” said Tigers coach Tracy Marshall, who had her players watch the Nebraska-Illinois match on the Big Ten Network the previous night for inspiration.
“We had prepared well for this match and I wanted them to see some high-level volleyball. That’s the last thing I wanted in their heads.”
Marshall’s only other senior on the roster is Kaitlyn Federico. The Clemson-bound setter had 20 assists and put down four kills.
“They’re a great team. We wanted it really bad but they outplayed us a little bit, ” Metea Valley senior setter Ellie Petersen (12
assists) said. “They’re big, but that’s never stopped us before. We’ve beaten some big teams but it just didn’t fall our way tonight.”
The Mustangs, who got seven kills and four digs from junior Lexie Lobdell, close the season 20-10.
The hosts led only once in each set, both at 1-0. The Mustangs kept it close throughout but could never regain the lead.
Santore closed out the first set with a resounding kill just inside the back line and served up the match winner on a point from 6-2 sophomore Allie Lindroth’s seventh kill.
Kaitlyn Fisher, a 6-1 junior, also had seven kills for the winners and 6-0 sophomore middle Lauren Robeck added four.
“I thought we were ready but we didn’t execute the way we wanted to,” first-year Metea Valley coach Bob Macdonald said . “Plainfield North is a big team and they hit some over our blocks and hit some open areas.
“I think their middles were better than we expected and I thought their lefty right side [Fisher] was one of the difference-makers.”
Plainfield North and Naperville North have met once this season.
“We lost in three sets, by two points in the last one,” Marshall said.