Girls volleyball: Deerfield ends Grayslake Central's season
Fresh off Tuesday's regional semifinal win over No. 7 seed Grayslake North, the Grayslake Central girls volleyball team was primed to take on another top seed.
The Rams marched back into Deerfield's gym Thursday evening to take on the second-seeded Warriors for the Class 3A regional championship.
And in a roller coaster matchup, Deerfield finally was able to survive and advance -- but Grayslake Central sure didn't make it easy for the Warriors.
After dropping the first set the Rams rallied to take Set 2, and took an early lead in the deciding set.
But led by sophomore Makayla Weissenberg, the Warriors stormed back to win 25-15, 23-25, 25-17.
It was the final game for outstanding Grayslake Central seniors Piper Gallaher, Megan Grampo, Claire Daley-Jacobsen, Taylor Guenther and Maya Cartee, and the quintet went out with their heads held high after an inspiring performance.
"These five seniors have meant so much to this program," said Rams coach Arian Colton. "On and off the court, they've been the players and the athletes that you want to be around. They're leaders, they work the hardest and are always getting everybody together. They really set the tone, and they're going to leave some big shoes to fill."
Deerfield won the first set handily, but Grayslake Central recovered and took the lead early in Set 2.
A kill from Mallory Wachter of the Rams put Grayslake Central up by 3 midway through, but Deerfield came back to take a 20-19 lead.
Then Grayslake Central, led by the stellar defensive play of Guenther, a libero, tied the game a 23 all -- and a kill by Ella Tews and an ace from Maddy Monahan gave the Set 2 victory to the Rams.
"We really did play great defense tonight," said Colton. "That's been one of our strengths all year."
Grayslake Central took a 2-point lead in the deciding set and had chances to increase the advantage, but couldn't see the ball bounce its way in a couple of crucial situations.
The hitting of Weissenberg then keyed a Deerfield run, and when the dust settled the home team had a 15-9 lead.
The Rams surged to within 4 points in the latter stages of the final set when Grampo swatted a perfectly placed kill down the sideline.
But Deerfield proved too strong at the end and after an ace by Monahan, the Warriors took it to match point and a side out gave them the title.
"The kids showed a lot of heart," said Colton. "We've taken a lot of steps forward this year. There's still a lot of room to grow but I am so proud of these girls. They fought really hard and I just wish we had a little more time to keep going."
After the game, Grampo reflected on her time with the team.
"I am so proud of how far we've come," she said. "This is the farthest our school has gotten (in the postseason) in a long time, and I feel like we left it all out there tonight. We took it to three against an amazing team and I couldn't be more proud.
"I don't think I ever could have imagined what it would be like to be over, but this has been an amazing experience, and I wouldn't change it for anything."