Maria Brown powers Lincoln-Way Central past rival East

When Lincoln-Way East beat Lincoln-Way Central in a summer league playoff match, Central’s Maria Brown wasn’t in attendance.

She had other plans.

Thursday she had only one plan. And it spelled curtains for East.

The 5-foot-8 outside hitter was a force, especially in a close first set. All of the Knights eventually caught fire with her during a 25-22, 25-9 SouthWest Suburban crossover road victory.

Brown and Jacqueline Langer had 10 kills each, Mariel Leibovitz 25 assists, Claire Vrabec 12 service points and Toni Leitshuh eight digs for Central (4-1).

Jessica Lindsey (8 kills), Taylor Nirchi (12 assists), Macie Lawrence (14 digs) and Sarah Dobrich (6 service points) paced East (2-3).

Brown missed the summer meeting due to some previously scheduled summer fun with some club teammates.

“I decided to attend the last summer concert that I could,” Brown said. “(It had been) a long season of club… two weeks before that we had been at club nationals, and I didn’t really get to do much this summer except for volleyball.

“We had gotten the tickets two months earlier. Usually, summer league ends the Thursday before, but playoffs were Tuesday. So I explained to coach that I was just a little burnt out from volleyball and needed a break, needed to do something fun.”

Central coach Kathy Sulkowski kept things in perspective.

“In the summer league… we were disappointed and I was disappointed that she wasn’t there,” Sulkowski said. “But what matters in these situations is that we move on, we move forward. Kids are kids. I wanted her ready to go for the season, and she did just that (against East). She did an amazing job. I’m really proud of her.”

Brown came out swinging against the Griffins, landing three kills for three of Central’s first four points. Later, with the Knights trailing 15-12, she went back-to-back with a block and a kill. Central’s final deficit, at 20-18 was erased in part by another pair of kills by Brown.

“In summer league I knew what happened, so I was like, ‘We are killing them this time,’ ” Brown said, smiling.

Langer finished off Set 1 for the Knights with consecutive kills. What ensued pretty much followed Brown’s projection.

A Leibovitz block and a blast to the ground on an East overset by Mallory Huddleston helped get Central off to a 3-0 start. It set in motion a series of multi-point outbursts in which the Knights did just about everything right.

They were especially proficient from the service line, with Leitshuh putting down two aces in a row and Vrabec three. Langer contributed six kills and a block to the Set 2 runaway.

“I really like to focus on my jump-serve,” Vrabec said. “It is hard to pass, but I have to make sure I actually get it over the net. I got it over and was on top of it today.”

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