Girls volleyball: Glenbrook South, Barrington advance to sectional finals for clash of Titans... and Broncos
Sports fans love to talk about the 'playoff atmosphere.' There's a clear distinction between a regular season game with half-interested fans and players versus a contest in which your ears ring once it's done.
Walking into the Warren High School gym for the Class 4A sectional semifinals, even if you've never been to a high school volleyball game, you could tell. These games meant something.
It's hard to imagine that Wednesday night will feel any different when Monday night's two winning teams, Barrington (37-1) and Glenbrook South (32-1) face each other in the finals.
The cool thing about the fabled 'playoff atmosphere' is that the players notice it too.
"It's hard coming into a different gym and different atmosphere," said Barrington coach Michelle Jakubowski. "I would say [we] got super excited, so we just had to control our emotions a little and go."
The first set between Barrington and Grant (21-16) oscillated for 12 points and was tied at 6-6, but, as Jakubowski said, that's when the Broncos let loose. They scored 5 in a row, a lead Grant would never surmount. Barrington won the first set 25-18.
The rest of the match was more of the same from the first with senior Jess Horwath cracking the court with kills and junior Hope Regas keenly finding the gaps.
"Jess did an amazing job with power, putting balls away," Jakubowski said. "Hope did a nice job of moving the ball around being smart on tipping the ball over where they weren't, so really proud of them."
While Grant coach John Gizowski paced the sidelines, Barrington breezed past the second set, winning 25-12.
Act II started with Glenbrook South serving to Libertyville (29-9). A new cast emerged, but the setting remained the same.
"This was the loudest, biggest gym we've played in all year," said Glenbrook South coach Kelly Dorn. "Super fun. I think we came in with a little bit of jitters in the first set if you couldn't tell."
It was noticeable, but the only thing better than a playoff atmosphere is a playoff atmosphere with an underdog. Almost everybody thinks so.
Behind some massive kills from senior Keira Kasten and juniors Stella Meyer and Lily Evans, Libertyville took the first set 25-22, which prompted the Halloween-themed Libertyville student section to chant, "I ... I believe ... I believe that we ... I believe that we will win!"
Glenbrook South put an end to that story, though. They won the second set handily 25-17.
At one point in the third and final set, Libertyville went up 7-6. And then Glenbrook South seniors Haylie Madsen and Ambria Olds appeared to have had enough. They helped kill their way to an 18-9 lead, and from there, juniors Ava Pratt, Bella Pehar and Caroline Crawford led the team home. The final ball from Libertyville sailed out of bounds, the Titans won the set 25-17, and the rematch was set into place.
Barrington versus Glenbrook South.
"Barrington beat us last year in the same exact match," Dorn said. "We remember."
Glenbrook South, who retained most of their players from last year, now has another full year of experience under its belts, Dorn pointed out. Last year they were mostly sophomores, and now juniors.
The two teams face off Wednesday -- 69 wins, two losses, and one net between the two of them.
"It's fun to play good teams," Dorn said. "We like this. We enjoy playing in this atmosphere: good teams, playoff volleyball."