CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Bloom Township's Skye McNutt didn't start Thursday against Crete-Monee at Bloom Trail, because it was senior night.
McNutt sure did finish.
The junior outside hitter had three of her match-high 10 kills over her team's final four points in a 25-22, 25-20 win over the Warriors, securing the Blazing Trojans' eighth consecutive Southland Athletic Conference championship.
"It was far and away her best match of the year," Bloom coach Jeanette Neubauer said of McNutt. "We pulled her up to the varsity for the playoffs last year, and she demonstrated she has the drive and talent to perform at this level.
"This year, she's our kill leader. She is a leader on and off the court. This was huge tonight."
McNutt was hardly alone. Seven Blazing Trojans registered kills on the night, including Kaylee Siriani, Karigan Hill and Skylar Fuller, who had four each. Morgan Zimmerman added three kills and five service points, while Tiffany Evancho had 20 assists.
The Blazing Trojans (18-17, 9-1), who could have slipped into a tie for the league crown with Rich Central with a loss, overcame deficits in both sets to fend off Crete (4-10, 4-6), which had beaten them in a tournament earlier in the year.
"This was amazing," said Siriani, a middle hitter. "It was a perfect last home game — especially the last couple of points. Everybody stepped up. We played like a team."
That sort of teamwork has carried a young Bloom team struggling to follow in the footsteps of last year's more experienced — and taller — unbeaten league champs.
"This was a little harder than last year," Siriani, at 5-10 1/2 the tallest player on this year's squad, said. "Last year we had a lot of taller people. Our hitting style was different. This year we've had to pull together as a team."
Siriani was one of four seniors honored in pregame ceremonies. Crete's Senior Night was shorter still, with only three on its roster.
"I have a really young team, bringing five freshmen and sophomores," coach Kristina Jones said. "We can play with everyone in our conference — we've beaten everybody in the conference once — but we're in consistent. In the next couple of years, we'll see."
Against Bloom, Crete was led by sophomore Bayle Bennett with six kills, and junior Lexie Gayton with five. Junior setter Sam Iwinski had 12 assists.