Girls volleyball: Glenbard West sweeps Wheaton North for regional title
When junior Tea Alles enters Glenbard West girls volleyball matches to serve and play back row, she provides a whole lot more.
"She's always been our energy kid," Glenbard West coach Dan Scott said. "She's comes off that bench, serves well and gives us a ton of energy. The girls on the bench love screaming for her. It just gives us that extra lift."
During the first set of the Class 4A Downers Grove South regional final Thursday, Alles served three straight points and made her only two digs during perhaps the match's biggest point as the Hilltoppers prevailed 25-22, 25-13 over a determined Wheaton North.
Glenbard West (25-12), the No. 2 seed in the Proviso West sectional, captured its second straight regional title and advances to the sectional semifinals at 7 p.m. Monday against No. 3 St. Charles East (30-7).
"I try to just bring as much energy as I can and hype my teammates up," said Alles, who served for five points. "I feel like it's really important to keep encouraging everyone and be excited for everyone no matter what."
Juniors Marin Johnson (8 kills, 8 digs), Avery Herbert (7 kills), Breccan Scheck (6 kills, 3 blocks), Lindsey Street (3 kills, 2 blocks) and Ivy Toth (4 kills) and seniors Haydon Green (27 assists, 8 digs, 2 aces), Liz Murray (14 digs, 7 service points, ace) and libero Demi Carpio (8 digs) led the Hilltoppers.
"It's amazing," Johnson said. "We're more than a program. We're a family. We've all put blood sweat and tears into this. You really see it."
When Alles re-entered to serve, Glenbard West and No. 7 Wheaton North (21-16) were tied 18-18 in the first set. After a Toth kill, Alles dug solid back-to-back attacks and Scheck soon converted for a 20-18 lead. Herbert's tip kill opened a 21-18 lead and the Hilltoppers remained ahead by at least two points before ending the set with another Scheck kill.
"It was just our whole team working together. We all definitely came together at that point," Alles said. "You could just tell we all had the energy ready to win, (thinking) let's push. We've got this."
"That definitely was a game-changer (at 19-18) because everyone felt that energy like everybody feels when you get a great dig and then a kill," Johnson said. "I feel like that really switched it from them going on a run to us just finishing (the set) off."
Wheaton North was led by senior and William & Mary commit Audrey Brcka (7 kills, 7 digs), who finished the season with more than 320 kills. Other standouts were seniors Paige Syswerda (5 assists, 4 digs, 2 aces, 2 kills), Mia Benson (5 kills), Addie Lee (7 digs, ace) and libero Paige Amwoza (4 digs, 3 assists), junior Juju Fender (7 assists, 6 service points) and sophomore Olivia Zamis (2 blocks).
The Falcons graduate 10 seniors, seven who played Thursday.
"We've seemed to have been comfortable playing from behind or down all season," Wheaton North coach Justin Hineman said. "Unfortunately we just couldn't get back that energy after that first-set letdown, which is really unfortunate because these girls have battled. If we were going to go down, we were going to go down fighting."
Wheaton North beat Glenbard West 25-9, 17-25, 25-22 for third at the Falcons' Blue and Gold Tournament on Aug. 27. The Hilltoppers were minus hitters Herbert and Toth. Scott said the Hilltoppers' ability spread their attack through the middle and both pins behind Green helped to thwart the Falcons' block Thursday.
"We were able to use all five of our hitters and mix up our offense and keep them off-balance," Scott said. "They're a very senior-led team so they were not going to go down easily."
The Falcons achieved their best season since the last regional title in 2017. All lower levels also were around 20 victories.
"I'm proud of the 10 seniors that gave everything to this program," Hineman said. "They've really been the voice of this mentality where you work your tail off to win these games. It's been fantastic to see the whole program embrace that."