Sticking with it was the theme of the night for Oak Lawn in its 12-25, 25-21, 25-21 South Suburban crossover victory against visiting Lemont on Thursday.
The first evidence was just being able to get competitive after being swept off the floor in Game 1 by a flurry of kills and blocks from Lemont’s 6-1 middle Kelly Ferguson.
But there were specific moments, too, especially near the end of Game 3.
Leading as late as 19-17, the Indians on-one volley began celebrating what they thought was a point after a spike ricocheted off defender Becky Bradshaw’s head. Libero Haley Hiljus, however, brought the ball up for the Spartans, who then claimed the point.
Up just 21-20, Hiljus made a sprawling dig on another Lemont spike. Again, it led to an Oak Lawn point. Bradshaw then turned in a sterling defensive play with the Spartans leading 22-20 that allowed Simona Tomczak to cash in with a kill.
It was 23-21 when 6-0 middle Sam Lesiak tried to punch down a spike at the net, only to have it blocked. With cat-like reflexes, she reached back up at the ball and swiped at it again. This time it went down. Moments later, Lesiak ended the match with a block.
“We just wanted it so bad,” Bradshaw said. “Especially since like last year, how we won it at their house. We were like, ‘We’ve got to keep it going at our house.’ ”
Tomczak had 11 kills and three aces, Bradshaw 10 kills, Hiljus nine digs and Christina Egan 21 assists for Oak Lawn (4-1, 3-0).
Olivia Whittingham (five kills), Cara Howell (five kills), Ferguson (five kills, three blocks), Katy Klein (21 assists), Shae Millinowisch (16 assists) and Haley Sullivan (10 digs) paced Lemont (7-3, 3-1).
Hiljus took extra satisfaction out of the defensive effort that paid big dividends. Last season, she was a backup to senior libero Olivia Lindner.
“All last year I was sitting on the bench and cheering, but I was working hard at practice,” Hiljus said. “We lost most of our defensive players when they graduated, so we’ve worked almost every practice on defense.”
Early on, there was no stopping Lemont’s Ferguson, especially during a 9-2, Game 1-ending run in which she had three kills, two blocks and towered with menace at the net.
Ferguson would get lost in the shuffle after that, however, while Bradshaw and Tomczak got more and more comfortable taking feeds from Egan and putting them down for the Spartans.
Oak Lawn opened up an early six-point lead in Game 2 and pretty much maintained it, then seized a back-and-forth affair in Game 3 with an 8-2 sprint to the finish.
“We’ve been looking for a lineup that’s clicking, and we’re still in that process now,” Lemont coach Chris Zogata said. “Oak Lawn did the same thing to us last year. They came into our place and beat us. They seem to have our number. We just need to learn how to make better adjustments.