SPVB 18 Elite might want to consider skipping the second game of any best-of-three match and just moving on to the third.
Monday in the semifinals of the National Junior Classic at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center in Aurora, the girls from Sports Performance found themselves just a few points from championship elimination down 18-25, 13-18 to MN Select 17-1 (Maple Grove, Minnesota).
“We tell ourselves all the time that we’d better not do it (fall behind in the second game),” SPVB 18 Elite middle hitter Sammi LaBolle said. “And we always do it. I think a lot of it is mental.”
SPVB 18 Elite rallied from that 5-point deficit in the second game to defeat MN Select 17-1 18-25, 25-22, 15-11, then bounced back from losing the second set to FaR Out 18 Black in the title match to win 25-22, 22-25, 15-12 and claim the 18 Open title of the three-day tournament.
“Maybe we should just skip the second game,” LaBolle said.
SPVB 18 Elite might not have been in position to win either match had it not been for LaBolle, who admittedly had her best day ever in a Sports Performance uniform.
The 6-foot-3 middle hitter from Sandwich had back-to-back blocks to give SPVB 18 Elite an 8-5 lead in the third set against FaR Out 18 Black, then redirected an overpass for a kill after the girls from Grand Rapids, Michigan, pulled within 11-10.
“I feel like I haven’t really done a lot this season to get any recognition,” LaBolle said. “I felt like I needed to get better for the team. Any time you’re playing a championship game, you have to go balls out.”
McKenna Slavik, a 6-1 junior setter from St. Charles East, also contributed in the title match. She had three blocks in the third set including one at 13-12 that gave the hosts match point.
“We haven’t played in about a month and we have been working on blocking off compression mats,” Slavik said. “I feel like blocking is something that I can control, and it helps our defense out immensely.
“I love the feeling of it (blocking), but I have been focusing on doing it for the team,” she added.
Slavik also put her hitters in much better hitting situations after the coaches pulled her aside in Game 2 of the semifinal.
“She wasn’t making good decisions,” SPVB 18 Elite coach Cheryl Butler said. “She needed to give her hitters better matchups and more playable balls to hit.”
Hitting has never been a problem for Uno Girls 18 Elite’s Rocky Perinar, who led the Joliet-based club to a third-place finish with a 25-14, 25-23 victory over MN Select 17-1.
“It’s much better than losing the last match of your (high school and club career),” said the 6-1 senior, who was the second-leading attacker on the 39-3 Minooka team that finished second in the IHSA Class 4A state tournament last fall.
Perinar leaves early Tuesday for her new home at the University of Tennessee, and she and her Uno Girls 18 Elite teammates – including Minooka teammates Samantha Hermann, Olivia Klank and Taylor Baranski – disbanded for the season following their third-place match.
“I’ve been playing with the same girls for the past 10 years, so it’s definitely a lot different starting a new home with a new team who I don’t know anyone from other than meeting them once or twice,” she said. “I’m really excited for it.”
SPVB 18 Kahl outside hitter Sarah Kushner doesn’t know who her teammates will be in the fall at Naperville North, but the 5-10 Illinois State recruit still has a few more matches to play with her Sports Performance teammates after their fifth-place showing Monday.
Kushner & Co. defeated MAVA 18 Select (Mid-American Volleyball Association, Louisville, Kentucky) 20-25, 25-21, 15-13 to finish 6-1 in the tournament.
“This weekend showed that we’re making the changes that we need to make to beat the good teams,” Kushner said. “We’re really solid – front row, back row, from first contact to second to third. We really excited to go to nationals and see what we can do.”
SPVB 18 Kahl’s only loss of the weekend was a 25-19, 25-19 setback against eventual champion SPVB 18 Elite. It was the seventh time the two teams have met this club season. SPVB 18 Elite has won all seven matches.
“We try not to focus on the name of the team we’re playing because it doesn’t really matter,” Kushner said. “We’re just trying to focus on our side of the net. We ran into a lot of good competition this weekend. So this (fifth place) is nice.”
Elsewhere in the tournament, Lions 15-1 defeated Northern Lights 15-1 25-20, 27-25 to win the 15 Open title, and PNK 16 (Louisville, Kentucky) defeated 1st Alliance 16 Silver 14-25, 25-23, 16-14 to claim the 16 Open crown.
For more tournament results, go to https://www.advancedeventsystems.com/EventResults/(S(2sltas551jyffzya5jqzmp55))/Home.aspx?e=PTAwMDAwMTM2NzE90.