When Glenbrook North’s blockers were finally able to stymie Evanston’s direct attack on offense, Wildkit setter Samm Kaiser had to turn to Plan B.
Resorting to a play they hadn’t used much Saturday — a “slide” play where the hitter runs behind the setter and circles around to the right for the set — the Wildkits were able to finish off the Spartans and earn a 9th place finish Saturday at the Summer’s End Tournament at Glenbrook North.
That 25-16, 22-25, 25-15 triumph over the Spartans helped coach Mallory Thelander’s squad finish tourney play with a 3-2 record. After defeating Argo (25-16, 25-17) earlier on Saturday, the Kits improved to 9-3 overall, just two wins shy of their entire total last season.
Like all setters, Kaiser’s primary responsibility is to choose which hitters she’ll feed the ball to while mixing up her options whenever possible and switching up the tempo when necessary. The senior standout definitely made the right choices in the late stages of Saturday’s finale as kills by Clara Siebert and Maggie Serieka on slide plays led the Kits to a final run of 8-1 to close out the hosts.
“I think our setters think mostly about that play when we’re running a 5-1 (attack), because they have three hitters in the front row then,” said Thelander. “We run it well in practice but we didn’t try it much until late in this match today. We weren’t having much success otherwise, so we had to try something different.
“Sometimes we’ll call that play from the bench, but usually it’s the setter’s choice. We were very successful with it today.”
Unable to put the Spartans away in the second set, ETHS was nursing a slim 17-14 advantage after GBN’s Lindy Vargas blocked Rosemary Gibbons (team-high 10 kills) for a point. Then the 5-foot-9 Kaiser won a rare joust at the net, Siebert accounted for back-to-back blocks, combining with slide kills from Siebert and Serieka. Junior Maddie Patke added an ace serve during that surge as well.
Holly Desmond (6 kills), Serieka (5 kills, 2 blocks), Siebert (5 kills, 2 blocks) and Kaiser (20 assists) all chipped in to the total team effort. Siena Prokopenko was credited with 4 ace serves for the winners.
Evanston totaled 9 aces — including 4 by Siebert — in the two-set sweep of Argo. Serieka showed the way with 3 kills and 4 blocks against an Argonaut team that struggled severely in the ballhandling department.
In Friday’s pool play, the Kits did top Zion-Benton (25-18, 27-26) in between losses to Loyola Academy (25-15, 25-22) and Wheeling (25-18, 25-20).
“Yesterday was a step backwards — we were so not up to our (usual) level of play,” the coach said. “We didn’t get off to a good start in any of the matches and it felt like we were always playing uphill. We always seemed to be on a roller coaster ride.
“Our defensive play definitely increased today (led by libero Patty Duffy). I thought Patty did a nice job of covering up what holes our blockers couldn’t get to.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.