Girls volleyball: Burlington Central's up-and-down season continues with loss to Crystal Lake Central
Crystal Lake Central might be young, starting four sophomores and a freshman, but the Tigers certainly don't have the look of a team with inexperience.
"This is the type of group that no matter what the score is, they always believe," Tigers coach Amy Johnson said. "They always believe they can come back. They have a one-point-at-a-time mentality. The whole match, they were super solid. It was a total team effort."
The Tigers captured the first set on sophomore outside hitter Mykaela Wallen's sixth kill, took quick control of the second and swept Burlington Central, 25-23, 25-15, in their Fox Valley Conference match Tuesday at Crystal Lake Central Fieldhouse.
After letting Burlington Central climb back from a 7-1 deficit in the opening set, Central went down 21-19 but scored the next four points. After the Rockets made a run of their own to tie the set at 23-all, Crystal Lake Central got the next two points, punctuated by the winner from Wallen.
"It's always one point a time for us," said Wallen, who led the Tigers with eight kills. "We didn't worry about making a mistake. It's just trying to move on fast as we can and get the next point. No one was getting down on themselves, it was a very positive energy.
"Even though we were down for a little bit, we kept it very consistent."
Bree Hubacher (seven kills), one of only two seniors on Central, felt the Tigers started to get going with better communication.
"We built up our communication and we just started clicking," Hubacher said. "Everyone started to connect, and I think our defense was really strong. I never feel that we're ever down to where we can't get back. We can always come back and win."
After taking the first set, Crystal Lake Central wasted little time in the second, jumping ahead of the Rockets, 6-1. Junior middle blocker Vivian Akalaonu recorded two key blocks to get the Tigers rolling. Sophomore Mia Ginter led the defense with nine digs.
Burlington Central climbed to within 10-7 of the Tigers on a kill from Brooke Hoffmann (four kills, four digs), but Crystal Lake Central came right back with an 8-1 run to grab control of the set and match.
The Rockets (7-6, 2-5) were led by sophomore Leah Freesemann with eight kills, two blocks and one ace. Briana Gritzman had nine digs, Ashley Arceo had two kills and six digs, and Rachel Burton added two blocks.
Burlington Central coach Julia Smagacz felt Tuesday's match was a snapshot of the Rockets' up-and-down start to the season.
Burlington Central was coming off a fifth-place finish at the Antioch Invitational with a 4-1 record.
"We've been up and down all year," Smagacz said. "The communication was a little slow today. I felt that could have been better. We were a little sloppy, a little slow. [Crystal Lake Central] was playing much cleaner than us, they were playing a little bit gutsier than we were, and that's what it came down to.
"We were up, and I don't know if that felt like enough coming back from the 7-1 deficit [in the first set]. But we just needed a bit more fight, a little more drive."
Hubacher has been thrilled with the Tigers' start to the season. She doesn't think there's a team that can match their energy.
"It's been a lot of fun, especially senior season for me," Hubacher said. "I think we're off to a really good start. I think we're capable of winning every game, I really think we can."