Lily Cozzi and Stevenson stay in driver’s seat for conference title with win against Warren

Chicago Tribune Sports 1 month ago

Lily Cozzi’s senior night nearly hit a big snag Wednesday.

The Stevenson outside hitter had a memorable outcome planned for her final home match.

There were poster boards of the seniors throughout the gymnasium, along with banners honoring the players. In addition, a special area with treats, such as cupcakes, was set up in a corner near the far grandstand for all the Stevenson players.

But the Patriots nearly missed out on the most essential aspect of their North Suburban matchup against Warren — winning.

After struggling in the opening set, the Patriots roared back to post a 21-25, 25-20, 25-13 triumph over the Blue Devils to stay in the running for a conference title.

“We weren’t taking (Warren) serious enough,” Cozzi said. “We kind of came out (slow). We pulled it out in the end. It just took awhile to get there. That’s one of the hardest parts of volleyball, just having that energy from the start.”

With two conference matches remaining, the Patriots (18-9, 5-0) are in the driver’s seat in the conference race. They have to resume a suspended match with Libertyville (19-6, 4-0) on Tuesday in which the Patriots won the first set, and then they close out the regular season at Lake Forest (25-7, 4-1) on Wednesday.

Warren (13-12, 3-2) left the gym knowing it missed a great opportunity to make a move in the conference.

Stevenson coach Tim Crow said his team must be more focused heading into the stretch run.

“We weren’t ready to play or ready to go,” Crow said. “Warren’s defense was sensational, and they blocked well. They made plays. Our tempo was kind of in a funk until the second set. … (Warren) has a nice team and plays great defensively.”

Cozzi sparked the win with four kills in a five-point sequence late in the third set to finish with a team-high nine kills. Grace Tully had 29 assists.

Crow said Cozzi has been a key player throughout the season. She ranks second on the team in kills with 174 and aces with 35 and is fourth in digs with 148.

“Lilly has been very consistent and become a leader,” Crow said. “She’s been very solid and really improved.”

Warren outside hitter Alayna Malec finished with nine kills to raise her season totals to 65 kills and 18 aces in 38 sets.

“Alayna was injured in the first half of this season and is coming back strong,” Warren coach Julie Filippo said. “She’s just picking it back up. She had a great match.”

Bob Narang is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.

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