By: Luke Drase
Just one day after losing their first match of the season to Buffalo Grove, Niles West responded with a thrilling 25-23, 27-25 win over CSL rival Maine East.
Niles West started out sloppy in the first game, falling behind to Maine East by scores of 11-5, and 21-17, thanks in part to great serving and defense by the Blue Demons.
Then, with Maine East leading 23-21 Niles West setter Michelle Choy stepped up to the service line for some pressured filled serves.
Choy proceeded to serve four straight points for the Wolves to close out the set, and complete the comeback.
Choy said: “I feel that serving is a lot of confidence, so if you go up thinking you’re going to make it over you will. Under a lot of pressure you have to get the first one over but also be aggressive, so I just kept that in my mind.”
Niles West carried the momentum from their come from behind win into the second set to jumped out to a 9-4 lead.
However, the Blue Demons never went away. Led by their libero Madeline Sielski, Maine East tied the game at 18, and then again at 24 after being down 24-21 late in the second set.
Despite two incredible comebacks, Maine East was unable to finish the job, and fell 27-25 in the second set, giving Niles West the match. An incredible response to their disappointing performance from the night before.
“Last night we had individuals playing, we didn’t have a lot of teamwork,” said Niles West head coach Stacy Roth.
“So we talked a lot about having a different mentality, having fun, not getting so tense and playing together as a unit and we came out and did that today.”
An unusual sub-par performance from Niles West’s Natalia Pehar meant Niles West had to receive contributions from other players.
Nicole Zelazko, who finished the match with eight kills and eight blocks, dominated at the net all night and seemed to be able to put the ball down at will, whether it be through quick middle attacks or back slides.
Zelazko said: “I just kind of opened my eyes a little bit more today. I usually try to focus on the defensive side but today I saw that the block wasn’t always there so I just took advantage. I decided to run a lot more back slides today with my setter and we connected really well.”
But despite the senior Zelazko stepping up, the most impressive performance on the night went to freshman outside hitter Elianna Scalero.
Scalero amassed 11 kills and three block on the night and earned the highest of praises from her coach.
“In 17 years of coaching, I’ve never had a freshman that could step in and play the outside position and play all the way around and have the ball control and the smarts that she has,” said Roth.
“I’ve just never seen it, and it’s just a huge asset for our team, she’s a thinker. Hitting that ball down the line in the corner, she had to think about that because she was hitting cross, cross, cross and she was able think, and change it up. So to have a Freshman like that excites me.”
The depth of hitting talent that Niles West possesses at every position makes them extremely difficult for other teams to prepare for. They will look to carry the momentum from this match into the New Trier tournament this weekend.