CARPENTERSVILLE - Despite taking the first game of its Class 4A regional semifinal against Cary-Grove, top-seeded Crystal Lake South found themselves needing a spark to recover from an early deficit in Game 2.
The Gators had to hold off a C-G team that refused to let up. After losing the first game, the Trojans opened Game 2 with a 6-1 lead forcing a Gators timeout.
It was then that South junior outside hitter Carly Nolan made her presence known. Nolan recorded three consecutive kills out of the timeout to pull South within two points. After the teams traded points, Nolan ripped off three straight aces to turn a 8-7 C-G lead into a 10-8 Gators advantage which they never relinquished.
South beat No. 4 C-G 25-21, 25-20, in a Class 4A Dundee-Crown Regional match to advance to Thursday's regional final against Crystal Lake Central. Nolan finished with a match-high 11 kills and 11 digs.
"I've been focusing on going around blocks and seeing them when I swing so as long as hit the shots it's hard [for defenses] to pick up," Nolan said.
Senior outside hitter Avalon Nero set the tone for the Gators (34-3) in the first game when she tallied four of her seven kills along with an ace.
"She's a game-changer for me," South coach Jorie Fontana said. "When Avalon is playing really well she makes takes our team to a whole nother level. She adds that dimension."
Junior outside hitter Abby Schebel led the Trojans (21-16) with eight kills while senior setter Meghan Seymour finished with three kills and 17 assists.
"We played with a lot of heart and we tried to stay in the match as much as we could, but you give the ball to Carly Nolan we can only shut her down a couple of times," C-G coach Patty Langanis said. "After that, she's going to score."