Tuesday was Emily Kwak’s 17th birthday, but it was Naperville North’s 5-foot-9 junior setter who was handing out the presents.
Kwak distributed 23 assists and added four kills, a block and an ace as Naperville North (16-2, 7-0 DuPage Valley) turned away visiting Naperville Central 25-6, 25-23 to remain alone atop the league standings.
Lexi Turek added eight kills and a block, 6-foot senior outside Emily Mankowski (15 digs) had seven kills, and 6-3 junior middle Megan Wernette and 6-0 senior middle Angela Jurek each added four kills for the Huskies, who closed Game 1 on a 12-0 run.
“When we are in system, that is how well we play,” said Kwak, who had her own cheering section in the stands including some cousins, a few neighborhood kids and a group of gentlemen wearing orange T-shirts each emblazoned with a letter from her first name.
“It’s hard to maintain that level of play over the course of two games,” she said. “Our consistency just dropped a little in the second game. Our defense was a little behind. But we ended up picking it up and finding that win.”
After falling behind 5-1 early in Game 2, Naperville Central (8-10, 5-2) caught the Huskies at 11-11 and led by as many as four points at 18-14 before Naperville North rallied.
“It’s tough emotionally to bounce back and perform for Game 2,” Naperville North coach Jennifer Urban said. “We knew that we would see a much better (Central) team out there and they played some great defense.
“It was back-and-forth for most of the game, but we were able to pull ahead at the end,” she added. “It was a great win, although we could’ve executed a little better on our side.”
Game 2 was tied at 21 when a Turek kill and a Central error allowed the hosts to ease to a 23-21 lead. Wernette’s rocket down the line extended the lead to 24-21, and after kills from junior Sam Clements and sophomore Andi Davenport got the Redhawks within 24-23, a Mankowski kill closed out the match.
Davenport had 12 assists and an ace for Naperville Central, which also got four kills each from Phoebe Havenaar and Clements.
“Give Naperville North credit,” Naperville Central coach Jeff Danborn said. “They’re fast, they’re strong and they’re tall and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re good. They proved that in Game 1. Give them credit.
“Volleyball is a sport where you have to believe that you can compete, and the moment you lose that belief the other team will roll all over you,” . “They completely beat us in the first set, but I like how we were able to remain composed in the second and just play consistent.”