There’s still plenty of season left for the Evanston girls to do some damage in the Central Suburban League South division race.
Coach Liz Brieva’s squad proved that with wins over two league rivals at the Discovery Tournament hosted by Glenbrook North and New Trier on Friday and Saturday, ending an 8-match losing skid and finishing 2-3 overall in tournament play.
Wins over two teams they lost to in the first round of CSL South play — Maine South and Niles North — showed Brieva and the Wildkits that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in what has been a frustrating season filled with close losses.
Now 7-19 overall, ETHS tripped Maine South in Friday’s pool play (25-13, 16-25, 15-10) and capitalized on 12 missed serves by Niles North Saturday morning in a 22-25, 25-22, 25-18 triumph. The Wildkits also dropped decisions to Argo (25-22, 25-11), Stevenson (20-25, 25-22, 15-5) and Prospect (25-17, 25-21).
“The theme right now is that we’re still evolving as a team,” Brieva said. “We just changed from a 5-1 offense to a 6-2 so we could use the many gifts and talents of each individual girl. We were lacking in a few areas and we just made the change last week. We’re just trying to build chemistry and find the right pieces.
“One of their goals yesterday was to play more as a unit, and I think they accomplished that. Our passing has been solid for most of the season, but now we’re converting more of our opportunities. The way they’re coming together is a real advantage for us now. We’re just trying to create situations where all of them can put their best foot forward.”
The Wildkits found more offense Saturday from Rosemary Gibbons (12 kills), Maya Mahoney (10 kills, 3 ace serves) and Izzy Darrah (7 kills). Considering the competition and lack of flow to the Saturday matches — teams in fourth place pools at tournaments tend to make more mistakes than good plays — that balance in a new offensive alignment was especially encouraging.
Against Niles North, Mahoney’s skill at the service line was part of a season-best 10-0 run by the Wildkits in the decisive third set. The Wildkits trailed 5-1, but a missed serve by the Vikings meant it was Mahoney’s turn.
She served up a pair of aces to go with kills by teammates Anna Henthorn and Darrah, and blocks for points by Henthorn and Darrah. The stunned Vikings were down 11-5 when Mahoney finally whistled a serve into the net, and they never got closer than four points the rest of the set.
In the “championship” match in the fourth place pool, Prospect seized control early in both sets and never looked back. Mahoney’s 7 kills kept the Kits in contention, however, and they closed within 21-20 on a kill by Mahoney and a combined block by Erin Eddy and Rileigh Farragher in the second set, only to see the Knights pull away again.
Brieva singled out Mahoney for a stellar performance, calling it “the best I’ve seen her play all the way around. She has the skills and she has the talent, and when she’s on, she’s really on.”