There's something about the postseason in high school sports, that turns up the excitement level. Perhaps, it's the fact that if you lose, you go home for good.
Willowbrook, seeded 16th in the Class 4A Larkin sectional, and Lake Park seeded 17th, took to the court Monday night in quarterfinal play of the Glenbard West regional.
The Lancers started out slow but caught a spark in the second set and prevailed 21-25, 25-14 and 25-23. They return to Glenbard West's Biester Gym today for a 6 p.m. match against the top-seeded host.
According to coach Tom Bergen, Lake Park had a strong showing at its own tournament last weekend, including taking Hersey and Oak Park-River Forest to three sets each, and that was helpful for Monday's match.
He wasn't pleased, though, at the 13 points he said the Lancers gave to the Warriors on Monday night but liked his team's level of play when it got some momentum beginning with Game 2.
"We have self-destructed almost all of this season. But when we play and not make mistakes, we can hang in with a lot of teams," Bergen said.
Willowbrook led by as much as six early in the third set. But later two hitting errors by the Warriors and a block by Lake Park's Colleen Ochab gave the Lancers a 22-20 advantage.
A block by Melissa Rader and Maggie McNamara tied the game at 22 before another kill by Ochab put Lake Park up for good at 23-22.
But it wasn't quite over yet. Sarah Battersby hit an ace to make it 24-22, but a kill by Joanna Conley gave the Warriors the ball back and cut the advantage to 1.
However, Ochab came through with a kill on defense for the 25th point and the match.
"It's so exciting to pull it out in the end and win," said senior libero Rachel Weslo. "It's great to be underestimated and beat people. We needed a little time to warm up, but we got our chemistry together."
Game 2 saw Denise Denson serving for the first time in the set and Lake Park ahead 7-5. When Willowbrook got the ball back, the Lancers were ahead 16-6.
A block by Maria Kubalewski and Amanda Ziemek and kills by Ziemek and Amanda Hahn fueled the scoring drive. Later Lake Park led by as much as 13 during the set.
Willowbrook led most of the first set. A kill by McNamara and a kill by Rader with an ace from Conley gave the Warrirors some breathing room late at 23-17 and they were able to hold on for the opening win.
And so the Lancers followed the rule high school teams always want to obey. When you are in the playoffs, try to play another day.
"It's not over. It's not like we have to go home and the season's over," Bergen said.