Defense wins championships, said Lake Park boys volleyball coach Tim Murphy, admitting the cliché.
Yes it does, cliché or not. So does timely offense. The Lancers displayed both in the clutch in Friday's state quarterfinal match at Hoffman Estates High School, dispatching familiar foe New Trier 25-16, 26-24 to advance to Saturday's semifinals against Lincoln-Way East, a 25-12, 25-11 winner over Edwardsville.
Out of a Lake Park timeout in the second game, tied 24-24, Lancers senior middle hitter Sean Moore's kill capped a long rally for the one-point edge. Giving service to another of Lake Park's 11 seniors, setter Quin Krisik, Moore blocked a Trevians spike to deliver the Lancers' first state semifinal appearance.
"I knew the outside (hitter) likes to hit seams and I knew I had to close," Moore said. "Luckily I had my good hand positioning, pressed low, and (I was) lucky that he hit it in my hands. I was in the right spot."
After falling in the 2012 quarterfinals and again in last season's sectional final, Lake Park (33-6) felt driven to advance.
"This whole season was just a season of history and we just didn't want to stop now," said senior outside hitter Dominick Terry, who planted a team-high 12 kills. Krisik added 25 assists.
"This is the game we love to play. Most of us are playing at the next level whether club or collegiate. We just wanted to keep going, we wanted to be back here tomorrow," Terry said.
For sure, New Trier (32-8) did too. Having gone 1-2 against the Lancers during the regular season, the Trevians led 4-2 in Game 1 behind left-handed jump server Brian Hammes, but they couldn't extend the run. Terry and Moore got Lake Park back on top, 8-5, and the Lancers closed the game with 7 straight points, a block by senior middle hitter Derek Burke deciding it 25-16.
"I think Lake Park outplayed us a little bit on defense," said New Trier coach Sue Haak. "I think there were a few balls that we should have probably picked up and kept in play and been able to transition to offense out of, and we didn't. It's always kind of the key in a championship game -- it's going to be long rallies and playing tough defense, and we just had a little lapse."
In Game 2 Lake Park again rallied from a quick 6-3 New Trier lead. Terry's deep kill and a 15-11 Lancers edge forced a Haak timeout.
The Trevians responded to go up 22-19 but momentum swung back Lake Park's way a 4-point run as Matt Lovelace held serve.
After a service error and an ace by New Trier's Eric Gantner tied the score at 24, Lancers coach Murphy's timeout set the stage for Moore to end it.
"I just said, 'We've come this far, we're right at the finish line,'" Murphy said. "'Don't have regrets, don't remember the way your season ends like this. Come battle, we don't want to go three (games), and just keep pushing. And believe in each other.' I think we came out of that huddle with 'One, two, three, belief.' These guys believed and it happened for us."