Girls volleyball: In a nail-biter, Libertyville tips Stevenson for NSC crown
Somehow, the spring break nails still look good.
Libertyville senior outside hitter Ella Schaffnit got her nails done for vacation week recently. The long, white acrylic nails certainly look nice, but they don't exactly seem user-friendly for volleyball. Especially for someone who is asked to pound the ball every chance she gets.
But Schaffnit had just the right touch Wednesday night, and didn't even lose a nail in the process, as she spiked and dinked and tipped and blocked all over the floor to lead Libertyville to a hotly contested, 3-set North Suburban Conference win over Stevenson that sealed the league championship for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats, now 11-1 on the season, rebounded from a first-set loss to win the match, 24-26, 25-15, 25-22.
It is Libertyville's seventh NSC championship since 2010 and its fifth in the last eight years.
Schaffnit finished with a team-high 12 kills for the Wildcats.
"It's hard to play with them," laughed Schaffnit, referring to her nails. "I should probably get them off.
"I just tried to switch up my shots today. Stevenson has really good defense and was all over the court so I just changed it up and I thought my sharp cross-court shot worked really well."
The Wildcats found a sweet spot in the far left corner of Stevenson's front row where they dropped quite a few unreturnable shots in crunch time.
"We tried to adjust, but (Libertyville) also did a good job of playing the ball short in the middle too, so it was kind of pick your poison with them," Stevenson coach Tim Crow said. "Our girls just needed to do a better job of recognizing where (the hitter's) shoulders are facing and how they're going to play the ball."
Libertyville started the third set with a 7-1 lead but Stevenson (5-2) fought back and eventually went up 17-16. The score went back and forth from there. But the Wildcats ultimately put away the set thanks to some Stevenson hitting errors and a Schaffnit kill on match point.
"In the third set, I think we got a little tense," said Stevenson outside hitter Amanda Holsen, who finished with a match-high 17 kills. "We just kind of held back a little bit. I think we needed to come out a little more aggressive."
Holsen also finished with 14 digs while Emerson Kouri led Stevenson with 16 digs. Setter Brooke Micek rolled up 29 assists.
For Libertyville, which rebounded from its only lost match of the season on Monday to Lakes, Keira Kasten added 5 kills, setters Larisa Slesers and Grace Bonjour had 15 and 10 assists respectively, Olivia Sauers had 4 aces, Grace Comilla had 3 aces, Kellie Hopper had 26 digs and Sauers had 22 digs.
"I thought our energy was good," Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. "And we didn't panic when they made that run (in the third set). We fought through that first punch from them and then it was back-and-forth all the way until they got stuck, and that was it.
"We have a tough battle with Stevenson every single time. Last year, we shared (the NSC title) with them and we're happy not to share it this time. And (with no state tournament), this (conference championship) is kind of elevated this year. Our girls have made the best of this and honestly, they are just happy and grateful every day that they get to play."