The stark difference between Kaneland’s opening sets on Tuesday and the regional volleyball games on Thursday couldn’t have been clearer.
During Tuesday’s regional semifinals against Glenbard South, the Knights struggled to play the standard of volleyball they have played and lost all season.
On Thursday against Sycamore, that dud from the first set was a distant memory.
“It was all mental [on Tuesday]. We got a little scared and we came out today, we knew what to do and we just made it, “said Kaneland Sr. outside of Maddie Buckley after the Knights’ triumphant 25-14, 25-16 win over Sycamore to Earn the Regional Class 3A title at Glenbard South.
The Knights (33-3) won both regular season games against the Spartans (24-12) and saved their best in the end to claim their fourth regional title since 2016. The 2020 season didn’t have a state streak, but the Knights won titles in 2018 and 2019.
“Totally different from 15 easy mistakes in the first sentence [Tuesday] versus three for an entire game [Thursday]“Said Knights trainer Cynthia Violett. “That’s a big difference. I think you are ready to play; You were hungry. I think they’ve run out of nerves. We’ve had some heart-to-heart over the last few days so I think that helped. “
Kaneland competed at Sycamore High School in the semi-finals of the section against Crystal Lake South on Monday at 5:30 p.m.
“It was really cool, especially not getting the last year and not getting any kind of condition [series]“Said Kaneland junior setter Mia Kane of raising the regional badge.[Me] also be younger, look up too [the current seniors] and to see that they had to do that in their sophomore year [in 2019], it was really cool to have that experience with them. “
The Spartans fought for their first regional title since 2015.
“We saw this team many times,” said Buckley, a Ball State recruit. “We know what they’re going to do. We just ran and I’m so proud of every single person on this team.”
The Knights parted ways with a 5-0 run in the middle of the first set to build a seven-point lead 14-7, and crossed the rest of the way with Buckley (12 kills and an ace), Meghan O’Sullivan (six kills) and Kane (two kills) leads the way.
The formula for Kaneland was seemingly simple: control opponent’s serve, set it up for whoever was ready, and throw it down. Rinse, repeat.
“It doesn’t have to be crazy. We just made the simple things better and that’s all you have to do to win a game,” said Buckley.
“We also really emphasized that each point is important, but none of them are special,” Buckley continued. “And that really helped us … That first sentence [on Tuesday], all of these points [fell] and we’re like, ‘Oh damn we’re down; it’s really important; No, it’s not, it’s important, but it’s nothing special and that’s what won us this game today. “
Kaneland never gave up the lead in the second set. The Knights were reinforced by a pair of 4-0 runs in the middle of the set to build an 18-10 lead driven by Kane and Buckley. Sycamore would steal a point or two if the Knights failed to serve or attack, but couldn’t sustain the run it took to fend off the Knights on the course.
Caylee Sharkey had five kills and Hannah Ekstrom three kills for the Spartans.
“I am extremely proud of my girls. We had set ourselves the goal of going as far as possible, both in the conference and in both” [in] the playoffs. I think we did that, “said Sycamore trainer Jennifer Charles.” Today wasn’t our day. Kaneland is a very good team. I think the way we played doesn’t reflect what our team is like so overall I’m happy with the fight and the performance they have put in all year. “
“I am extremely proud of my seniors: Faith Feuerbach, Hannah Ekstrom, Andrea Foulk, [and] Caylee Sharkey on how they took that leadership role and put our team on their backs and determined to have a better season than last year, “continued Charles.” Overall, I couldn’t be happier as a coach. “