ALGONQUIN – For the past three years, Maris Smith and her Jacobs volleyball teammates have looked at Cary-Grove as a measuring stick.
In the past three seasons, the Trojans have won the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title and gone to the state championship match, winning a Class 4A state title in 2009 and finishing second in 2010 and 2011. To the Eagles, beating the Trojans truly is a meaningful win.
To do it twice in one season and take the second meeting in two sets, as the Eagles did Thursday with a 25-19, 25-23 FVC Valley victory, left Smith a little giddy.
“It’s so big,” Smith said. “My freshman year, my sophomore year, my junior year, it was like, ‘Gosh, Cary-Grove.’ Now that we’re finally beating them it seems a little surreal.”
Jacobs (20-6 overall, 6-2 FVC Valley) dropped a match to the Trojans in the Eagles’ tournament in early September but nipped C-G in division play Sept. 11 in a three-game match. Afterward, the Eagles vowed to get the Trojans in two next time.
The bigger statement Thursday was the one Jacobs made about itself. The Eagles remain a contender in the race for the FVC Valley crown with four division matches left, and the program has not won a conference title in longer than the coaches can recollect.
“To put them away two straight means we’re improving,” senior outside hitter Alyssa Ehrhardt said. “That’s what we’re really trying to do the second time around (the division). We’re trying to make a name for ourselves, and this is when we have to do it.”
Jacobs’ strong serving forced C-G (12-12, 4-5) out of system often, but especially early in Game 2. Junior setter Mackenzie Traub served three straight aces and Ehrhardt (14 kills, five digs) served two of her five during a 7-1 run that helped the Eagles lead 8-4.
Kills from Ehrhardt, Smith (three kills, two aces, three digs) freshman middle hitter Katie Mahoney and a block from freshman middle Bridget Wallenberger helped lift Jacobs to a 18-12 advantage before C-G rallied.
Trojans senior outside Alex Larsen delivered four of her team-high nine kills down the stretch, including a knock that cut C-G’s deficit to one, 24-23. But Jacobs regrouped and earned match point on Mahoney’s kill block.
“You cannot think teams will not come after you, and Cary-Grove always plays good volleyball,” Jacobs coach Lisa Dwyer said. “ … We wanted to take this second round of the conference season and do the best we can against teams that either we haven’t beaten before or we’ve beaten before and just need to beat again.”
C-G setter Jess Bartczyszyn (18 assists) did a masterful job at the net and Larsen and middle hitter Mallory Wilczynski each paced the Trojans, who were disappointed with the loss after performing well last weekend at the Asics Challenge.
“We came off a great weekend and we were passing really well, running so much in system,” Langanis said. “Jacobs served really tough, kept us on our toes and exploited our weaknesses. We had a hard time recovering.”