Back and forth went Lake Park and St. Francis.
After nearly 75 minutes, the boys volleyball teams from each school put forth a spirited effort before the visiting Spartans rallied to stun the host Lancers in three games, 26-28, 25-19, 28-26 in nonconference action on Wednesday evening in Roselle.
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"It is always a great match when we get together," St. Francis coach Mike Lynch said.
The latest installment didn't disappoint.
Lake Park middle Derek Burke and setter Quin Krisik helped the Lancers rally from a 24-22 deficit to take the first game.
Lake Park was unable to carryover the momentum as the Spartans started to get their act together, especially at the net. St. Francis middle Jeff Jendryk had 2 kills and a big block, while teammate Greg Churney added 2 aces to help the Spartans battle back and win the second game.
"We just picked up our intensity and we started to do a better job of calling out their hitters," said Jendryk, who had 10 kills and 5 blocks. "I knew that I had to start to be more aggressive at the net."
The decisive game had ups and downs on both sides. A series of kills by Lake Park's Dillon Hock put the Lancers ahead 14-9, but then a questionable call went against the hosts and St. Francis took advantage.
The Spartans (19-5) eventually took a 21-19 lead when the Lancers (14-10) stormed back behind middle Sean Moore's aggressive play. Moore's block gave the Lake Park a 24-22 lead, but the Lancers couldn't seal the deal as Jendryk, Patrick Flood and Matt Metzler scored the last three points for the Spartans as they closed out the win.
Churney and his teammates were especially effective in the third game, scoring points by placing the ball in deep corners when they attacked.
"Coach is always on us about getting that corner shot down because it is difficult for opponents to adjust to," said Churney, who had 9 kills.
Lynch pointed to the play of junior Robert Smith, who has essentially taken over as the permanent setter because of an injury to senior Alex Shuski.
"(Smith) had 34 assists and that is a big number to connect that many times -- especially for someone who plays libero on his club team," Lynch said. "For him to come out set like he has was tremendous. He just works so hard out on the floor. He was great tonight."
Unfortunately for Lake Park coach Tim Murphy, this was an all-too-familiar finish.
"We've been a consistent team all year -- when we get to a third game and we make errors at the end," said Murphy, whose team also lost a three-game match to Neuqua Valley on Tuesday. "We just can't finish a game. I told the guys when we get into the playoffs we are going to have to win a third game when it is 23-23. They have not proven to me that they can do that yet."