Oak Lawn spent much of Tuesday’s South Suburban Red match chasing points against host Richards.
But not when it counted.
Twice, the Spartans trailed 24-21. Twice they prevailed 27-25.
Simona Tomczak, coming up clutch during both comebacks, finished with 10 kills and 13 digs. Bri Markusic (4 kills, 2 blocks), Sam Lesiak (4 kills, 2 blocks), Camryn Landingham (5 digs) and Rebecca Suarez (11 assists) also were leaders for Oak Lawn (7-6, 4-2).
Dana Wujcik had 11 digs and five kills, Kelly Lind six kills, Sara Kiziak seven blocks, Katelyn Sullivan 21 assists and Lexi Badon 22 digs for Richards (8-9, 2-4).
“I don’t think this was our best win. We can play better than this,” Tomczak said.
Perhaps. But the latest edition of the “Battle of Oak Lawn” couldn’t have been more exciting.
The largest lead in Game 1 was just three points. Richards twice was there, closing to within one point of victory when Kiziak found the floor with a spike.
After a timeout, Oak Lawn answered with a flurry of offense. Lesiak connected on an assist from Suarez. Suarez, while scrambling and off balance, tipped a shot over from the right side. Alli Yacko tied it at 24 with an ace.
“During the timeout we all made sure to give everyone a high-five,” Lesiak said. “We wanted positive feedback. We needed to stay together as a team. If one person had gotten negative it would have affected everyone’s attitude.”
A Lind blast gave Richards another chance to close it out at 25-24, but hitting errors gave Oak Lawn the advantage and Tomczak landed a booming kill for the game-winner.
In Game 2, an ace by Sullivan and a block by Sierra Witt helped Richards race to a 5-1 lead. The Bulldogs, efficiently passing the ball and getting domination at the net from the 5-11 Kiziak, led the entire way, until at 24-21, when more disaster struck.
A hitting error gave the serve back to the Spartans. Tomczak again crushed a kill. Another Bulldogs error, and suddenly it was 24-all.
A smartly placed shot to the left back by Halee Barker put Richards up 25-24, but Tomczak sent a laser through the heart of the Bulldogs defense for the tie, and then served out the match as Yacko and Markusic landed the final two kills.
“I don’t get nervous. I mean, that’s how volleyball is,” Tomczak said. “I like the feeling when we’re tight in the game. I just hit the ball hard.”
Indeed, the Spartans, particularly Tomczak, were queens of crunch time.
“The story of the match for us was not being able to finish,” Richards coach Ray Van Syckle said. “We always talk to the girls about being mentally tough, not playing to lose and staying aggressive. But we just didn’t have enough.
“When Simona went to the front row those last couple of points each game — she’s a finisher. She knows how to get the job done. It was a fun match. We just have to go back and find a way to close out those games.”