After a brief (but long for their standards) three years absence, New Trier will be returning to the super sectionals after defeating Hersey 21-25, 25-12, 25-17 in the sectional final on Wednesday night.
“I’m so excited.” said New Trier setter Payton Hielscher. “When I was on the court I was just thinking that this is the game we’ve always been wanting to play in, it’s happening now and I’m just so, so happy.”
Head coach of New Trier Hannah Hsieh added: “I told them right after the regular season ended, I see a path down state for us. It doesn’t happen often where the cards line up but I felt that there was a path that we could chart and we said we had to go for it this year.”
Early in set number one, both teams came out very calm and collected. Hersey was a little more aggressive from the get-go, swinging away at the New Trier block while the Trevians were content with aiming for high hands and keeping the ball in play.
Though two very contrasting styles, the score remained tied for the majority of the first half of the set.
Hersey broke through first when they went up 11-8, but New Trier responded straight away, tying it up at 13 before taking a 18-14 lead.
With Hersey seemingly in store for a similar result to the first time these two teams played, it was outside hitter Kati Kaburov who lead the Huskies back.
The moment was not too big for the sophomore as she helped Hersey tie the game up at 20 with her hitting, before taking over from the service line to serve out the set giving Hersey the 25-21 win.
Needing a win to keep their season alive, New Trier responded like they have all season long and completely put the previous game in the review mirror.
“We’re just a lot stronger and more experienced than we were last year,” said Hsieh.
“Last year we obviously had a lot of young players that haven’t played in a varsity match and now they’re just more steady. We can ride out surges that other teams put on and the girls stay calm and are able to play through that.”
Quieted in set number one, outside hitter Maddie McGregor came alive for the Trevians with a couple of big early kills to put New Trier up 11-5.
It didn’t stop there for New Trier. Continuing to extend their lead, it was 18-12 when Hielscher (26 assists, 3 kills, 4 aces) got a stuff block to side out, and proceeded to serve out the rest of the set giving New Trier a huge 25-12 win.
“We fed off that energy. Anytime anyone gets a block it always pumps us up,” said Hielscher. “With serving, I always try to block out the crowd. Obviously there was a lot of people here today but I always try to think about whats on the court and what we can control.”
In the start of the deciding set, Hersey’s nerves started to show for the first time allowing New Trier to jump out to a 9-3 lead.
With a sectional championship slipping through their grasp, Hersey recovered to cut to the deficit to just two points at 12-10.
New Trier and Hersey would continue to exchange runs. New Trier first, with a six point run to make it 18-10 and Hersey responding with a five point run of their own to keep them within striking distance.
In the closing moments of the match, New Trier started their final push with a kill from Gillian Klise (13 kills) but this time Hersey were unable to recover.
The Trevians closed out the match on an 8-2 run, capped off with a McGregor kill giving them the final set 25-17 and a sectional title.
New Trier, now one of just eight teams left in class 4A move on to the super sectional match. A win there, and the Trevians will have earned the right to play at the state finals at Illinois St. University.
Even with the significance of each match increasing every round, New Trier looks to be as focused as ever.
Hielscher said: “We just gotta keep doing what we’re doing and keep playing our game no matter whose on the other side of the court.”
The super sectional match between New Trier and Crystal Lake Central will take place at Lake Zurich high school at 6:00 on Friday.