Lake Park's first priority was to advance out of Friday morning's state volleyball quarterfinals.
The Lancers did just that, but it wasn't easy.
On the verge of losing the opening game, Lake Park rallied just in time to win it 27-25. Then the Lancers eventually pulled away to win the second game and the match 25-17 at Hoffman Estates High School.
"We've been down here quite a few times and this first match has not worked out for us," said Lancers coach Tim Murphy, whose team placed a school-best fourth in 2014 but hadn't gotten past the quarterfinals in two tries since. "It's a little bit of a hump that we wanted to get over, a large goal of ours this year."
The Lancers (38-1) got off to a slow start, falling behind 3-1 and 12-9 in Game 1. No matter what they tried, they couldn't seem to shake the Huskies.
"They're a good team, and they've had their way with a lot of teams, especially other good teams, so I thought that they were coming in and they were ready to kind of steamroll us," Oak Park senior Ben Hancock said of the Lancers. "I think we set a new bar as to what they were expecting from us."
A couple of Oak Park mistakes gave Lake Park a 19-17 lead, but the Huskies scored the next four points for a 21-19 lead. Oak Park (25-9) took the biggest lead of Game 1 at 24-21, forcing a Lake Park timeout to break the Huskies' momentum and refocus the Lancers.
"We kind of talked it over at timeouts, and I felt like we came together and showed that we don't want to end it here," Lake Park senior Jack Fischer said. "We want to keep on going and keep winning. So I felt like we did get down a little bit, but later on we threw it off our backs and stayed in the game."
"I for sure thought we had them when it was 24-21," Oak Park senior Mike Saleh added. "We still threw our block up. They had some nice swings. They played well."
The Lancers won the next four points to take a 25-24 lead before breathing a sigh of relief when junior Nick Martinski's kill won the game.
"I feel like our team, when we're playing with our backs against the wall, we overachieve," Lancers senior setter Justin Yost said. "I feel like when that happens, our true talent comes out and we play our best. I feel like that came out today when it was 24-21, and I was really proud to be a part of that."
In the second game the Lancers took the lead for good with a 6-point run that ended with a pair of Martinski aces to make the score 12-8. Oak Park never got closer than 3 points again.
"After the win in the first set, we really had a lot of energy and confidence going into the second one," Martinski said. "We really had to focus up and take care of what we needed to, and I thought we did that really well."
The Lancers will meet Lincoln-Way East, a three-game winner against New Trier in a 10 a.m. Saturday semifinal. The championship and third-place matches are late Saturday afternoon.