CARPENTERSVILLE – Prairie Ridge committed a nearly season-ending flaw when the Wolves stepped onto the court Monday for its Class 4A Dundee-Crown Regional quarterfinal match against Dundee-Crown.
The No. 3-seeded Wolves admittedly entered the match overlooking a Chargers squad, seeded sixth in the regional, that they had already beaten twice this season.
That mentality forced the Wolves to battle back against D-C after the Chargers won the first game. Prairie Ridge's experience and improved play helped the Wolves recover for a 19-25, 25-19, 25-18 win. They advance to Tuesday's regional semifinal against No. 2 Crystal Lake Central.
"We kind of started off slow because we were like, OK, we've beaten them before it won't be that hard," junior middle blocker Ali Witt said. "But then we realized we need to work. Every team in the postseason is going to work and they're not going to give it to us. Nobody wants to lose."
In the decisive third game, Prairie Ridge (21-15) jumped to a 7-1 lead as three different players tallied kills for the Wolves – part of a diverse offensive attack that featured four players finishing with at least six kills. Witt delivered the match-winning block to keep the Wolves' season alive.
"In the third game we said, 'Hey, you guys have to go out there and see what you can do,' " D-C coach Christine Hopkins-Muehl said. "We knew we were underdogs. We knew it was the more far-fetched version of our little fairytale, but we were hoping to knock somebody out and surprise some people."
An energized D-C team stunned Prairie Ridge during its Game 1 victory, never trailing after it took a 9-8 lead off a Wolves' hitter error. Breanna Novak's kill, one of seven she had in the match, and two Prairie Ridge errors secured the opening game win for the Chargers (16-20).
More accurate passing and the emergence of Witt (match-high 10 kills) allowed the Wolves to hold off D-C as they closed Game 2 on a 7-1 run.
"The whole season, we haven't reached our potential," said senior setter Taylor Otto, who finished with 32 assists. "We need to use the postseason because, for some of us, it's the last time playing. We have to reach our potential now."