Girls volleyball: Willowbrook, St. Charles East both win in 2
Whether it's contorting her body for a set, a savvy fake-out quick toss over the net or a power swing for a kill, Hannah Kenny leaves no doubt about her ability on the court.
A smile from Kenny, a Willowbrook sophomore, after a kill or a perfect set to the outside to her older sister, Calli, perhaps says plenty, too.
"She's definitely one of the best in the state. Easy," Willowbrook coach Irene Mason said following the Warriors' 25-15, 25-18 sweep of York in Monday's Class 4A Proviso West Sectional semifinal. "Once people can see it. the stats don't always tell, but once you see her and see her athleticism, you would never know the size she is [5 foot 7]."
Kenny, a setter and right-side hitter, is just one of several powerful cogs for a Willowbrook team vying for a second consecutive sectional title.
"[Playing with this team] really is an unreal experience," said Kenny, who had six kills and one ace Monday. "It's so fun. Every time we step on the court, especially going in a playoff, is just a different experience. We all just have so much fun and so much energy. It's really unreal."
The Warriors, who haven't lost since Sept. 3, ride into Wednesday's sectional final versus St. Charles East, who defeated Glenbard West 31-29, 25-18 in the second semifinal, on a 29-match win streak.
Willowbrook (36-2) chipped away at a comfortable lead in set one. York (26-12) kept it within 16-12 after a Warriors attack error, but the Kenny sisters kept them rolling to pull away rather comfortably.
In the second set, after trading a pair of leads, the Dukes held a brief one point lead at 9-8 but a Hannah Kenny kill and two from Natalie Cipriano sparked the Warriors' run. After another Calli Kenny kill for a 20-12 Willowbrook lead, York was able to chip away points with strong efforts from Katie Day, Clare Mortenson and Emelyn Stettin, but the Dukes effectively ran out of gas.
"The energy from every single one, whether they're on the court or on the bench, and the buy-in is just amazing," Mason said. "You can feel it on the court, whether we're coming from behind or we're solid and comfortable [and] locked in. Energy stays consistent, which is great."
Calli Kenny put down eight kills and an ace. Cipriano had five aces and Hope Reckamp had two kills for Willowbrook.
Stettin and Mortenson each finished with five kills to pace the Dukes.
"I thought we did an awesome job defensively," York coach Daniel Piwowarczyk said. "We were getting a ton of balls up."
York fell to Willowbrook in the regional final last season.
"I said this quote last year because we lost to them in the playoffs, but the Kennys are sure something," Piwowarczyk continued. "They really are. They're spectacular. We were getting behind the ball and it's still just; they were just hitting so hard. We were getting there and trying to get the ball up. We did a good job getting a lot of the balls up from them, but at the end of the day, they're super power hitters. There's really not much you can do. We did everything we could."
"I thought we did an excellent job digging everyone else," Piwowarczyk said. "That was kind of the game plan going in. 'Hey, we can defensively play with them'. We were trying to serve them tough and we got them out of system quite a bit. But, even out of system, the Kennys kept putting the ball down."
Stettin was "definitely our best hitter today," Piwowarczyk agreed.
"That first set, she really kept us in it when it was 10-10. She's just getting kill after kill and mixing up shots very well," Piwowarczyk said.
St. Charles East d. Glenbard West:
Kate Goudreau and Sarah Musial could finally catch their breath and stabilize their heart beats.
St. Charles East had just outlasted Glenbard West 31-29, 25-18 in Monday's sectional semifinal. The first set alone saw nine ties and seven set points combined.
Goudreau's power swings, Musial's savvy sets and other efforts from Natalee Rush, Julia Ferrandino and Lexi Crossen at the net all came together at the perfect time for the Saints to advance to Wednesday's Class 4A Proviso West Sectional final against Willowbrook.
"In practice, we [simulate] these types of tight games with the score set up already and that's practicing our pushing through and perseverance through those tough moments," said Musial, the Saints' junior setter.
Glenbard West (25-13) took a seemingly comfortable 18-12 advantage in the first set, but the Goudreau, Lia Schneider and Musial combined for a 6-0 run to put the Saints back in position to reset and get back into the match. The Saints eventually took a 23-20 lead, but Glenbard West fought right back to tie and start a seesaw battle down the stretch.
Glenbard West had set point opportunities three times at 27, 28 and 29, but the Saints had an answer each time. Crossen's kill inched the Saints ahead at 30-29 and a block from Ferrandino clinched the marathon first set.
"The environment of the gym kind of helped us, too," said Gouderau, who anchored the attack with 12 kills. Musial had three kills and two aces. Ferrandino had four kills and Rush had seven kills.
"They were obviously a little nervous. I didn't see that before the match as much. I saw a little bit," Saints coach Jennie Kull said. "We needed to get this. This is our seed. We [knew] we needed to get this one and now, everything here is fluff. We're going to be playing a great team [in Willowbrook], so we can't wait [to get going] like that. We can't give them the start like we did in the first set. They got to step right out and go."
By the second set, the Saints found themselves more in rhythm.
Glenbard West coach Dan Scott knew blocking and points were strong points from both teams. Points, evidently, were going to be "hard to come by."
"And we were going to be in this position where everybody was going to have to give everything they had; It was going to go point for point. We were going to have runs and we had to stay calm, composed and try to keep battling," Scott said. "It was tough. We had a chance to put the ball away about two or three opportunities we didn't get a full swing on and [St. Charles East is] too good. They're going to pick that up."
Ivy Toth and Marin Johnson had four kills each for Glenbard West, while Avery Herbert had five kills and an ace to lead them.
"Credit to St. Charles East. They're an outstanding team," Scott said. "They've got multiple Division I players over there that gave us fits. I hope we gave them fits, too, with our back row and defense with our two seniors, Liz Murray and Demi Carpio taking control back there. Haydon Green, our setter, also. A ton of leadership on the floor."
"I think every single person had one of their best games," Goudreau said. "We're always together. We just always play well together and tonight, we just did it extra well."
The Saints, vying for their first sectional title since 2018, now have the Kenny sisters and Willowbrook in their way.
"This is something we've been preparing for all season and I know that all of our energy, it's all excitement more than nerves," Musial said. "I know we all really want this for our team. And, for Kull, for her last season with us."