St. Charles East struggles but knocks out Conant.
Byline: Scott Miller Daily Herald Correspondent
A couple of familiar rivals will be meeting up again Tuesday in the semifinals of the St. Charles North boys volleyball regional when St. Charles East takes on the host North Stars.
The 12th-seeded Saints advanced on Monday with a hard-fought 25-14, 22-25, 25-20 win over 21st-seeded Conant.
"We're excited to play (North) again," East coach Kate McCullagh said. "Any time you play a team as good as North the mental aspect is really important. Keeping our cool and staying confident are going to be big keys."
The Saints' mental toughness was certainly put to the test as they survived an opening round scare against Conant. After cruising to an easy win in Game 1 and jumping out to a 13-9 lead in Game 2, East fell into a deep rut committing 16 unforced errors allowing the Cougars to rally and even the match at a game apiece.
The Saints were still out of sorts early in Game 3 and trailed 11-7 midway through before finally righting the ship to outscore the Cougars 17-9 down the stretch to pull out the win.
"I have to admit there were some moments of panic," McCullagh said. "You start looking at the possibility of your season coming to an end and reality sets in. We really got out of sync, but the kids stayed confident. They clawed back and did what they needed to do."
A kill by Colin Hanley started a 7-0 run in Game 3 that put the Saints ahead 14-11. Hanley also had another big kill during the pivotal stretch and finished with a team-high 11 kills.
"We were making some errors that were getting in our heads," Hanley said. "But we had confidence in ourselves that we could turn it around. We were just scrappy and didn't give up. Once we got a few kills the energy picked up. We started finding holes in the blocks again and putting balls down."
Jacob Stark came up big in the middle down the stretch for the Saints with 5 blocks. He finished with 10.
Lucas Coker had 26 assists for East while Jakob Coker had a team-high 14 digs.
It's now on to play the fifth-seeded North Stars for the Saints, who lost to North earlier in the year 25-23, 25-22.
"We have to treat it like any other game," Hanley said. "The mindset has to be to get ourselves ready for the next match no matter who the opponent is. We have to stay confident and keep our heads in the game."
Conant (9-25) was led by Anthony Chan with 9 kills. Nathan Jones added 5 kills.