MAPLE PARK – Kaneland girls volleyball coach Todd Weimer has an uneasy feeling in matches that unfold like Thursday's Northern Illinois Big 12 East contest against Morris.
After Morris won the first game, Kaneland answered back to even the match, leaving Weimer with some anxious moments leading up to the rubber game. The Knights successfully guarded against a Game 3 regression, defeating the Redskins, 23-25, 25-18, 25-22.
"In theory, the team that just lost [Game 2] should have the advantage of 'OK, hey, this is what we did,' we're going to make the adjustments and respond back," Weimer said. "They got a little bit closer there in Game 3 than they did in Game 2 but we just found what was working for us in each rotation."
Morris won the teams' first meeting and had a realistic shot at the season sweep, closing to within one-point deficits three times late in Game 3, the last of which on a Kaylin Korte kill to cut Kaneland's lead to 23-22.
But the Knights (14-7, 3-3 NI Big 12 East) responded with a Lauren Banbury kill and capped the match on Ashley Prost's service point.
"We really wanted to fight our hardest to beat them because we had lost to them a couple weeks ago in conference, and that just [increased] our motivation, on our home court, wanting to just beat them that much more," Kaneland junior Emily Laudont said. "I think that really brought us all together and gave us all the more energy."
Morris coach Jackie Litwiller said the Knights' versatility might have been the difference.
"They kept us on our toes – they were swinging and tipping," Litwiller said. "I think we just got a little bit out of system and couldn't rally back together."
Weimer was especially happy with the play of Prost (18 assists), who has returned to setter in the absence of Jenny Lubic (recovering from concussion) the past couple weeks.
With Prost sliding to setter, playing time has opened up on the outside for Laudont, who notched four of her seven kills in Game 3.
Kaneland's attack was paced by sophomore standout Ellie Dunn (12 kills, five blocks), while Banbury matched Laudont's seven kills.
The Knights have played more than their share of tight matches in recent weeks.
"They're exciting for us," Kaneland senior middle hitter Keri Groen said. "I think we all appreciate them because it makes us work harder."
The Redskins (16-9, 2-4) were led by Kendall Korte (12 kills, 12 digs), JoAnna Nowicki (six kills), Katie Chatten (24 assists) and Laney Torkelson (five blocks).
Kendall Korte drilled consecutive kills to break the 23-all tie in the first game.
"We know Kendall's our go-to player, they know Kendall's our go-to player," Litwiller said. "It's just if she can find the holes in their defense, and fortunately in Game 1 she was able to."