LANSING | Thornton Fractional South began its volleyball playoff match at home Tuesday night as if it were primed to pull an upset.
The strong start by the Rebels slowly faded, however, as favored Lincoln-Way East persevered 25-23, 25-18, in the Class 4A T.F. South Regional semifinal.
With the win, the fifth-seeded Griffins advance to face fourth-seeded Marist at 6 p.m. Thursday for the T.F. South Regional championship. Marist defeated Homewood-Flossmoor in Tuesday's other semifinal, 25-16, 25-15.
The Rebels closed out their season with an 18-10-1 mark, while the Vikings finished with an 18-17 record.
"We were aware of (the Griffins') front line and their tendencies, and I thought our defense really shut them down," Rebels coach Kim Sands said of Tuesday's defeat. "I think we struggled a little bit on blocking, and I think that made a difference in the second game."
A four-point swing midway through the first game gave the Rebels a 17-15 lead. The Rebels held a 22-20 lead before the Griffins won five of the final six points to close out the game.
"First game, we pushed them really hard, and we fell a little short," Rebels senior outside hitter Nicole Gill said. "It happens."
The Griffins got ahead 9-3 in the second game and never let the Rebels closer than five points.
The Rebels were led by senior Elise Seufert, who had 10 service points, two aces, 12 assists and a kill. Teammate Leah Lagastee contributed five kills and five blocks, while Crystal Lee added four kills, and Danijela Jerkan added a team-high six blocks.
Seufert contributed 13 digs, while libero Ashtyn Kapovich added 11 digs for the Rebels.
The Griffins (29-7) were led by Kayla Currier, who had a game-high eight kills, and Taylor Nirchi, who had a game-high 16 assists.
"(The Rebels) played some really scrappy defense," Griffins coach Linda Vivona said. "We thought we put some balls down on them, but they dug them up really well. And they also served very well."
In the other semifinal, Marist broke open an even first game with H-F behind a seven-point service game by Mallory Salis. The Red Hawks seemed content to trade two points for one point in the second game, which was put away with a kill by Kirsten Ivkovic (game-high eight kills).
The Vikings were led by junior Kaitlyn Shereyk (six kills, nine digs) and sophomore Skylar Hildebrand (team-high 11 digs).
"Defensively, I thought we played really well," H-F coach Tony Kruse said. "Our girls gave it everything they had, but that is not enough when you play a team like Marist."