The last time Niles West and New Trier faced each other was in last year’s regional final.
Niles West got the better of New Trier on that occasion in a thrilling three set match, but the roles were reversed on Thursday night as the Trevians defeated the Wolves 25-19, 25-21 to move to 5-0 in conference play.
Both teams had a sluggish start to the match. Niles West struggled with their serve receive but New Trier did not take advantage, as missed serves eased the pressure off of the Wolves.
As the score was tied at 7, New Trier finally started to find their rhythm, but Niles West, who was without starting setter Michelle Choy due to illness, struggled generating an attack.
With Niles West struggling offensively, the New Trier block took full advantage, dominating the battle of the net which was led by junior middle, Gillian Klise.
New Trier’s defense helped them shut down Natalia Pehar, and saw them pull away from Niles West to win set one 25-19.
Klise said: “I was working on closing my block a lot and really pressing over the net as far as I could to block her [Pehar] and it worked out today.”
After being blocked on nearly every point towards the end of set one, Niles West entered set two with a different strategy, tipping and roll shots.
The strategy initially worked, catching New Trier off guard on a few occasions to keep Niles West within striking distance.
Once, the Niles West hitters finally settled in just by seeing the ball land on the other side of the net, the Wolves got their groove back.
Giving New Trier a taste of their own medicine, Niles West finally took the lead at 12-11 with two stuff blocks of their own, sandwiched between two Pehar kills.
However, it didn’t take long for New Trier to get back on track. Grace Bozzo played a huge roll for the Trevians, serving three aces in a row, digging Pehar on multiple occasions, and even attacking from the back row to give the lead right back to New Trier 15-12.
“Just to know that a point doesn’t end with a great hit or swing is something that we’ve really worked on and being able to transition to offense off a great dig,” said New Trier head coach Hannah Hsieh.
“Having Grace as a back row option is great. It’s actually one of her strengths and our team’s strengths, having more than one back row option to re-up our offense especially if our passing is a little bit off.”
But just when it seemed like Niles West was dead and buried, they crawled back once again to tie the set at 18 with all the momentum going their way.
After a few sideouts from both teams, New Trier got a handle on the match for good, as back to back aces by Maddie McGregor gave the Trevians the cushion they needed to take the set 25-21.
New Trier is now 17-2 on the season and has beaten every team on their side of the CSL at least once, but there are still lofty goals to be achieved.
“For us, every time we play a conference team again we want to do better than the last time,” said Hsieh.
“We just want to make sure we’re peaking at the right time. We’re still just chugging along and want to be at our best by the time postseason comes along.”