Girls volleyball: Varga, Lakes motor past Deerfield, into sectional final

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/1/2021 9:21 PM

Saves in soccer, saves in volleyball.

Nicole Varga is adept at making them both.


Varga, a Lakes senior, is familiar with getting big stops from her goalkeeper position on the soccer team.

Monday night in Arlington Heights, the senior used her skills on the volleyball court from her libero position to make numerous clutch "saves" -- dives to keep the ball off the floor -- as the Eagles scored another playoff upset win.

Just days after knocking off third-seeded Carmel for a regional championship, fifth-seeded Lakes defeated No. 2 seed Deerfield 25-22, 25-15 Monday in the Class 3A St. Viator girls volleyball sectional semifinal.

The Eagles will return to Viator Wednesday at 6 p.m. to take on the top-seeded Lions for the sectional title.

Varga finished with 8 digs on the night.

"She is totally in control, absolute control," said Lakes coach Sarah Yeager off Varga. "Nicole goes out there and reads the ball better than most players I have seen."

Varga deflected any praise coming her way, saying "it's really team effort here, everyone, including the bench. It's their energy that drives us forward."

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Lakes rallied to win the first set.

The Eagles trailed 16-14, but 5 straight points behind the service of senior Hailey Russo saw them take a commanding lead.

Lakes closed out Set 1 when sophomore Jillian Ellenwood had a block kill.

"I felt good going into the second set," said Yeager. "But it was all about finishing. Deerfield is a great volleyball team, and my hat's off to them.

"We wanted to come out in set two and take control from the jump."

The score in the deciding set stood at 10-10 when senior Megan Brylski led a run that saw Lakes take a 4-point lead.

The Eagles kept extending the advantage as senior Julia Tebben hit 3 consecutive kills, and an ace by Katie Mercure brought Lakes to match point.

A side out on an error by Deerfield gave the win to Lakes and the celebration was on.


"These kids are really going after it," said Yeager.

Tebben led the way for the Eagles with 17 kills, 7 digs, and 2 aces. Brylski added 4 kills, 5 digs, 6 aces and 20 assists, and Russo contributed 2 kills and 10 digs.

"We're playing our best volleyball at the right time," said Yeager. "These girls have put in a lot of work on the court and outside of the court. They're just an amazing group of individuals."

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