Behind a 6-point serving streak from senior Nick Martinski on its second rotation, the Lake Park boys volleyball team accomplished its pre-match goal Monday of starting strong against a solid opponent.
As for a dramatic and successful finish, seniors Bob Sampson, Jordan Haigh and Austin Bayner took care of that.
The Lancers failed to convert three match points and then overcame set point by scoring the final three points for a 25-18, 27-25 nonconference victory over Lyons Township in Roselle.
"I think (the key was) just our scrappiness as a team. We played pretty well defensively on the last three points, getting balls up, running our offense, getting all of us available for hits," Bayner said.
"When it was (Lake Park leading) 22-20 it was like, 'Game to 5. Who's going to make less errors?' I feel like they made less errors, but I feel like we got back together as a team and put more balls away."
Lake Park (13-2) led 23-20 and first had match point at 24-21 before the Lions (4-5) stormed back for set point at 25-24.
Haigh's kill off serve receive again tied the set. With Haigh now serving, Sampson, the Lancers' setter, had his only kill of the game. A Lyons Township attack error ended the match.
"When you have a lead in the 20s and you lose that lead, it's easy to kind of crumble and let the other team build the momentum and win that game. I love how we just focus on next point and earned a couple of points down the stretch," Lake Park coach Brian Fischer said.
"A competitive match at this time of the year, it's always good to see where we stand, if we have the mental focus to make the plays down the stretch."
Bayner had 9 kills with 7 in the second set. Martinski, Haigh and senior Zach Deardorff each had 7. Sampson had 28 assists and senior libero Nic Carzoli had 20 digs.
Six-foot-5 Ohio State recruit Sean Ryan had 4 kills and 8 digs for the Lions. They collected just 11 kills but still were outstanding at the net with 9 blocks for points, 7 involving 6-6 junior Ray Bonner.
"Their blocking was really important for keeping them in the game," Sampson said.
Bayner's first kill of the match gave the Lancers a 22-18 lead in the first game. He later put away set point.
In the second set Bayner's block with senior Joe Wrobel created the Lancers' first match point at 24-21.
At 25-25 a Bayner attack was deflected back to Lake Park's side. Then came Sampson's push kill to open space, although not completely as planned.
"I was trying to swipe it off (the blocker's) hands and throw it out of bounds but luckily it was still in," Sampson said. "That's something we've been working on in practice for me, looking at the block during the play. That helped me on that play to find the hole in the defense."
The Lancers are optimistic to offensively repeat what last year's third-place state finisher did. Martinski, Haigh and Bayner were among the team's kill leaders -- all between 259 and 223.
"It was pretty even. That's what I'm hoping to be like, kind of match last year or do even better," Bayner said.
"I feel like we're playing good but we're not playing at where we should. We're having that lull we need to cut out of our game and other than that, we're a pretty good team. We can contend with other teams."
Sampson has taken over for graduated two-year starting setter Jake Snyder, now at Aurora University.
"Bob was a really good student last year. (He) picked Justin's mind, learned from him, practiced really hard, and then played club," Fischer said. "He made a lot of big strides. Slightly undersized at 6-1, but he's the hardest worker in the gym every day."
Still minus injured senior middle hitter Matt Malloy, the Lions showed great fortitude. Coming out of their timeout during Martinski's service streak, they quickly closed a 9-2 deficit to 9-8.
"This was a good match for us, a little better play than we have seen up to this point," said retiring Lyons Township coach Joann Pyritz, who has coached the Lions since their first varsity season in 1994.
"Lake Park's a highly ranked and very skilled team. This is a Monday (match), no practice (Sunday) so it makes it difficult to be at your best. I think that we played with a lot more intensity than we usually do and this is how it has to be and they know that."