When a team starts to get it, a coach can’t help but smile.
Two nights after giving Geneva all it could handle in a quality loss, Larkin put a grin on coach Henry Graack’s face during an Upstate Eight crossover match against host Bartlett, winning 25-18 and 25-13.
“Serving and serve-receive has gotten a lot better, we’ve sped up our offense a little bit, and it’s been working,” Graack said. “Our location serving has been good and it has helped throw our opponent’s offense off a little bit. We’re headed in the right direction.”
Larkin senior Amelia Gill led Larkin (2-7) in kills with eight, and she sees another element at play as an inexperienced team finds its footing.
“We’re doing a lot of bonding, we’re a big family, and that’s been key,” Gill said. “We’re coming together.”
Early in Game 1, neither team managed to string together many points. Larkin led 11-7 when senior Danielle Newquist served for four consecutive points, the longest offensive run of the game.
Newquist then spearheaded a nine-point Larkin run in Game 2, including three aces.
Bartlett (2-3) went into Thursday’s match on the heels of wins over Hoffman Estates and East Aurora but struggled through the mid-points of both games.
“They were able to keep it in play and we kind of got in our own heads,” Bartlett’s Susan Arns said. “Our serve-receiving wasn’t as good and I know we can definitely do better there.”
After making the all-tournament team at Wheaton North’s Blue-Gold Invite on Saturday, Larkin sophomore setter Natalie Kofie played another solid game. Kofie had 16 assists, nine digs and two blocks in the win.
Newquist had six kills and six digs and teammate Ella Riddle-Roland finished with four kills and two digs. Gill added two digs and two blocks for a Royals team working hard to gel.
“We proved that we can pick up the pace,” Gill said. “Our energy and motivation made the difference in the first game. Our skill is there and we just picked it up.”
Bartlett led 5-2 in Game 2 before Larkin’s nine-point run, and Hawks coach Kathleen Matt liked much of what she saw from a slightly fatigued team playing its third match in three nights.
“In our last two matches we took command and played with more confidence,” Matt said. “They’re starting to take the court like they mean it.”
Arns agreed that this year’s Hawks are starting to play with more of a fire in their bellies.
“We’re meshing better than in years past,” Arns said, “and we definitely have started to get that feeling that ‘losing is bad, so let’s start winning’.”
Jennifer Kummerer and Natalie Moll led Bartlett with four kills apiece, while Andie Sobotka had six digs.