Hersey junior Kaiya Eshoo had the longest serving streak in Monday’s opening match of the high school girls volleyball season in Arlington Heights.
And it just happened to be the knockout punch in the Huskies’ 25-14, 25-12 triumph over visiting St. Viator in the Carter Gymnasium.
With her team leading set two 18-11, Eshoo delivered 6 straight service points to get the defending Mid-Suburban League champs to match point in the nonconference win.
“I like serving a lot,” said Eshoo, who was 12-of-14 for the match with 2 aces. “I was just going for the zone that my coach told me and that works. “
The Huskies’ opening-match work resulted in a match-high 6 kills from junior Kati Kaburov and 5 from Alessia Olhava, who also handed out 8 assists from 15-of-15 setting.
Hersey junior middle blockers Janine Boyan and Juliette Van Den Herik each collected 3 kills while classmate Nora Zielke added a pair.
“We’ve got a lot to be excited about,” said Hersey coach Nancy Lill, who won her 900th match last fall and guided her team to the Sweet Sixteen. “We’ve got a lot back from last year with our middles, and Kati and Alessia adding to it with some young talent. We have a sophomore libero (Maddie Mullin who had 5 digs). We’re really young with only one senior (Olhava) on the floor.”
Lions coach Charlie Curtin also put a young team on the same floor upon which he played boys volleyball at Hersey for Lill.
“Hersey always has a very good team,” said Curtin, who had his finest team last fall as he led the Lions to fourth place in the Class 3A tourney. “Coach Lill knows how get the girls ready from day one and they always compete late into the season.
“She’s a great coach. I loved playing for her and it’s fun to come here now and compete against her.”
The first set was tied at 5-5 before Hersey got the lead for good on a side out and ace by Kaburov.
Zielke served 5 straight points to give the Huskies an 18-8 lead from which the Lions never recovered.
“It was an eye-opening experience for a lot of our girls who had never played on the varsity,” said Curtin, “and some who haven’t even started high school (school begins on Wednesday).”
Curtin was referring to freshmen Danielle Panzeca (4 digs), Lauren Allaire (2 aces) and Lilly LaFleur (1 kill).
Senior Kate Nottoli led the attack with 5 kills while classmate Anna Haas added 4.
“I thought Anna Haas came in and played very well,” Curtin said. “She wasn’t going to play right side but Vicky Gorny injured her right arm. Anna was able to step in and almost led our team in kills.”
Hersey jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the second set and never looked back.
Back-to-back kills from Boyan and Kaburov made it 16-8, and moments later Eshoo (7 assists) produced her big service run.
“I think we struggled a little in the first set, we were a little nervous,” Eshoo said. “But other than that, we went out and did what we had to for the win.”
“It was a good first match,” Lill said. “I know St. Viator graduated a lot from last year ut they still have a good, solid team. This is our little crosstown rivalry and we can never overlook them. They are always a challenge.
“I love Charlie (Curtin). He’s a great guy and he is an excellent coach. He has done so much with that program. It’s fun to open up the season with him.
“You could tell it was an early season match for both team with some of the serving errors and some of the mental errors that both teams made. I’m sure they’re going to improve throughout the season, and hopefully we do as well.”