HAMPSHIRE – The postseason hasn’t been especially kind to Kaneland volleyball in the recent past.
Through a couple of unlucky regional draws and tough three-set losses, no Kaneland player on the roster had won a playoff match.
But the Knights finally broke through with a 25-17, 25-18 victory over St. Edward in the Class 3A Hampshire Regional semifinals.
“I’ve had those two rough years and it’s honestly the biggest weight lifted off,” Kaneland senior Lyndi Scholl said. “It’s an amazing feeling knowing we get to play again Thursday, our season isn’t over.”
Top-seeded Kaneland jumped on No. 5 St. Edward early in the first game, going up, 13-3, on Jenny Lubic’s ace. The Knights held the advantage throughout and St. Edward never pulled closer than six points.
St. Edward made it a battle in Game 2, but Keri Groen helped Kaneland pull away late. She recorded four of the Knights’ final five points, including three kills and a block, to help seal the win.
“She was phenomenal,” Kaneland coach Todd Weimer said. “She came out and played one of the best matches I’ve seen in a long time from Keri, blocking-wise and swinging-wise.”
Groen and Ellie Dunn led the Knights with seven kills each while Shayna Tucek had 17 digs in limited playing time.
Kaneland will play Sycamore on Thursday for the Knights’ first regional title since 1991.
“We want to keep going. We want to keep pushing as far as we can,” Scholl said. “It’d be amazing to go to state; right now we’re focused on regionals though.”
Spartans sweep: Sycamore defeated Burlington Central, 25-23, 25-21, in the second semifinal match at Hampshire.
Second-seeded Burlington Central controlled play early and went up, 16-13, after consecutive kills from Jenna Schudel.
But third-seeded Sycamore scored six consecutive points with Christina Dailey serving and hung on for a 25-23 win after Burlington’s serve went wide on set point.
“We started off a little slow,” Sycamore senior Brittany Huber said. “But the second game we picked it up, and I thought we did really good.”
The Spartans carried that momentum to an early 9-3 advantage in Game 2. Burlington battled back to tie it, 15-15, but a clutch dig from Huber in the back row led to a kill by Hannah Knox and Sycamore never trailed, closing the match out in two games.
“They just kept making mistakes that we try to avoid making,” Huber said. “We try to keep it as simple as possible, playing it out.”
Sycamore put together one of its better defensive performances of the season, coach Debbie Klock said.
Huber finished with 14 digs while Christina Dailey had 17 and Emily Young tallied six.
Knox had 11 kills and Huber recorded nine to lead Sycamore offensively.
Sycamore, which will be going for its third regional championship in four seasons, split its two Northern Illinois Big 12 East matches against Kaneland during the regular season.
The Spartans have been streaky in the second half of the season, winning their last 10 matches not in tournaments and tying Yorkville for the conference crown.
“We had 77 digs in our last game against Kaneland,” Klock said. “It’s going to be a grind on Thursday.”