Lake Park threw the first punch, but Glenbard West threw the knockout blow.
The three-time defending state champion Hilltoppers came back after absorbing a pounding in Game 1 to defeat Lake Park 18-25, 25-19, 25-18 and win the Addison Trail sectional Tuesday in Addison.
Glenbard West (35-3) will now face Barrington (34-5) in an IHSA state quarterfinal Friday at 10:30 a.m. at Hoffman Estates. Barrington defeated Libertyville 27-25, 25-21 to win the Grant sectional.
Lake Park bowed out at 31-6. But for the first 30 minutes of the match, Lake Park took Glenbard West to the woodshed and looked like the team that would be moving on.
The Lancers built a 17-11 lead in Game 1 on one of 15 kills by 6-foot-7 outside hitter Nick Martinski to force a Glenbard West timeout. The Lancers quickly extended the lead to 21-13 on a kill by 6-5 outside hitter Lance Deardorf, and won the set on a double-hit violation by Glenbard West.
But when the bell rung to begin Game 2, it was the Hilltoppers who came out swinging.
“It was like a boxing match,” Lake Park coach Brian Fischer said. “We came out and gave them the first punch and they swung back hard. They started making a lot of good plays. There were times when I thought for sure we had the point, and they’re over there scrapping and making a block or a dig or something.”
Glenbard West built an early 10-6 lead in the second set on a pair of kills by 6-1 junior Ryan Swartzand 6-6 outside Stone Metz. Lake Park closed to within 10-8, but a Lake Park service error and two more putaways by Swartz pushed the lead to 15-9.
Two kills by 6-3 middle hitter Austin Bayner got Lake Park within 17-14 and forced a Glenbard West timeout, but a pair of kills from the Hilltoppers’ 6-10 middle hitter JT Ardell put the set out of reach.
“We started out a little shaky and we realized that we needed to pick up our defense,” Ardell said. “The back row, especially libero Zach Morris, was playing out of their minds. It was awesome to watch. We knew that if a ball got past the block, they would pretty much get it up every time.”
The third set was a carbon copy of the second. Glenbard West raced to a 10-6 lead and was never threatened. When a kill by Swartz extended the lead to 17-10, Lake Park’s fate was all but sealed.
“We were playing a little scared in the first set,” Swartz said. “But when we got up in the second set we knew we could win this and we really went after them. I was swinging for the fences. I wasn’t going to go out tipping.”
Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer said the difference between the first set and the next two was mostly mental.
“The pep talk (between sets) was … we’re young and I get it,” she said. “But we need to stop playing not to lose and start playing to win. When you play not to lose, you’re nervous. When you play to win, you get excited. That was the difference.”
That, and 14 kills from Metz, 13 kills from Swartz, 5 kills and 4 blocks from Ardell and 38 assists by Henry Curtis.
In addition to Martinski’s 15 kills, Lake Park got 9 kill from Jordan Haigh, 7 kills from Bayner, 20 digs from Nick Carzoli and 33 assists from Robert Sampson.
“We dig ourselves too big of a hole in Game 2 and 3,” Fischer said. “It was obvious the guys fought each and every point. We were close a few times but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“But I love to see the fighting mentality in the guys,” he added. “That’s the mentality we try to instill in them, and I love to see it. Even when we were down match points in the third set, we were earning points.”
But it was Glenbard West, not Lake Park, that lived to fight another day.