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Sycamore volleyball upsets top-seeded Kaneland for regional title

SANDWICH – The Sycamore girls volleyball team got a bit of a scare in Thursday’s Class 3A Sandwich Regional championship match against Kaneland.

The Spartans dropped their first game, 25-17, but won Game 2 convincingly, 25-12. Sycamore then pulled away late in Game 3 with a 25-18 decision to advance to Tuesday’s Class 3A Princeton sectional semifinal against Dunlap.

“I’m very proud of them because they did a great job and we got great leadership when we needed it to happen,” Sycamore coach Eric Nore said. “We’ll see what happens now from here. We’re just happy we’re moving on. Our mantra was that we could play in November, and that’s all that matters now.”

Sycamore (16-17) junior Mattie Hayes (seven kills) wasn’t sure what the reason was for the Spartans’ slow start, but she was enthusiastic about how the team responded.

“I guess we just really weren’t as focused as we needed to be,” she said. “We had a talk after the first game and we made sure we adjusted and played more as a team. Our offense and defense were much better.”

Nore also said the slick conditions of the gym floor played a factor.

“We learned right away that this floor is a challenge,” he said. “I made a crack at Kaneland coach (Kerri McCastland) that it’s OK because we trained on a slick floor and she was like, ‘What?’

“But we did, we trained a little bit with slick conditions,” Nore continued.

That big victory in Game 2 seemingly carried over to the deciding game as Sycamore jumped ahead 3-0 before Kaneland responded with a rally of its own to make a match of it.

Kaneland (14-16) sophomore Vanessa Gould sparked the Knights, scoring on back-to-back serves to pull the Knights ahead, 8-7. They’d maintain that lead up to 12-11 before the Spartans took control for good by scoring four consecutive points to pull ahead, 16-12. The Knights wouldn’t get to within two points the rest of the night.

“We just were really pumped up after winning that second game and having fun,” Sycamore senior Christina Dailey said. “We seem to play much better when we’re having fun.”

Jenee Carlson (13 digs), Kendra Larson (26 assists) had big efforts for the winners while Mallory Wolf and Gabby Wenger each added five kills.

“We didn’t have the best record this season, but we knew once the playoffs started we’d be 0-0,” Dailey said. “We’re now 3-0 and it feels great.”

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