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Stage is Set for Sandburg-Stagg Volleyball Showdown

Rivals advance to Class 4A regional finals; Lincoln-Way North's strong campaign closes.

Whenever district rivals Stagg and Sandburg square off at anything, the rivalry tends to bring out a little extra intensity.

After each school claimed wins at the Class 4A volleyball regional at Sandburg on Thursday night, the two teams advance to what should be another contested battle in Saturday's regional final slated for 1 p.m. in Orland Park.

Sandburg's Eagles (28-8), seeded third in the Shepard Sectional, breezed past No. 14 Bloom 25-12, 25-14 in Thursday's nightcap after No. 11 Stagg put forth a solid effort in knocking off Southwest Suburban Red champion Lincoln-Way North 25-19, 25-17 in the first semifinal.

"We went out and had a little fun with it. We finished well," said Sandburg senior outside hitter Amanda Kijewski, who had five kills against the Trojans, who had notched their 20th win of the season against Thornwood to earn the right to face the Eagles. "This was a good start to the playoffs for us, but I think Stagg is going to come out strong."

The Eagles, who knocked out the Chargers in the sectional round in 2009, stormed ahead of Bloom 12-1 behind a trio of aces from Jenny Buczek and another one from Paige Bendell. Buczek and Bendell each recorded three aces in the first game as the Eagles handcuffed the Trojans with some nasty serves.

"We kind of got out to a nice start with our serving and it kind of took them out," Sandburg coach David Vales said. "It took out their intensity a little bit. We're going to beat a lot of teams in the playoffs with our serving. If we plan to go far, our serving has got to be on."

Kara Kentner had four kills and seven assists, mostly in Game 2, as Vales used a number of different lineups on Thursday. Bendell added seven assists and Joanna Curtis six assists as the Eagles took a step toward earning another regional crown.

While the hosts expected to live to play another day, the young 19-17 Stagg Chargers had to knock off a seventh-seeded, 22-win Lincoln-Way North squad in order to move on in the state tourney. After a missed serve, Stagg led just 11-8 in Game 1 before a 10-4 run powered the Chargers to victory. Donata Taskunaite had two of her six kills during the charge and Lina Survilaite added a big block kill.

Lincoln-Way North, which was led by four kills apiece from Jackie Billie and Stephanie Pearson, trailed just 12-11 in the second game following an ace by Erynn Schuh (22 assists) and a block kill from Ashley Pickert. But the Phoenix couldn't even up the match as the Chargers used a strong defense and some timely attacks from Jill Conrad (4 kills, 8 assists) and Ali Conrad (5 kills, 9 digs) to complete the sweep.

"We've been doing a great job these last few weeks and I think it will help us in the playoffs," said Ali Conrad, a sophomore outside hitter. "We plan on playing tough on Saturday."

Phoenix coach Mary Brown was disappointed with Thursday's outcome, but not with where her young program has gotten.

"We are young and it's only our second year with seniors," she said. "We played tight, but you've got to give credit to Stagg. I've seen these girls play to their potential and we can keep up with anyone."

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