CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Good teams usually find a way to win when pressured, especially when their seasons are on the line.
Illiana Christian and Marian Catholic's boys volleyball teams pressed their respective favored opponents in Tuesday night's Marian Catholic Regional semifinal matches before each was turned back. The Spartans (15-17) put together a five-point run late in the second game before falling to Providence Catholic 25-10, 25-19, while the Vikings (18-19) stayed in Lincoln-Way North's shadow during the second game before being eliminated, 25-17, 25-23.
The Phoenix (24-12) and Celtics (22-9) will meet today for the regional championship.
"This was a game we could have taken," Vikings coach Nikki Van Dyke said of Tuesday's loss. "We just couldn't serve-receive."
Illiana surrendered only four service aces, but found it difficult to get into a rhythm against the hard-serving Phoenix. Each time the Vikings drew close, Lincoln-Way North found a way to answer.
There were five first-game ties, but Illiana was unable to ever grab a lead. In Game 2, the Vikings were either tied or within a point of the Phoenix six times, but again failed to ever gain the upper hand.
"We got a couple of good blocks and some momentum," said Vikings junior Kyle Vander Zee, who finished with three kills and two digs. "But the deficits we had in the games, we couldn't dig ourselves out."
Illiana setter Dale Krygier had eight assists, a block and three finesse shots for points that kept Lincoln-Way North's front line guessing. The Phoenix were led by Joseph Pognant, who recorded seven kills.
Marian never managed a lead in either of its games, but the Spartans earned early ties in each before the Celtics responded with runs.
Providence outscored the hosts 9-1 to end the first game, and when the Spartans pulled within a point late in the second game on an unforced Celtics error, the latter responded by scoring six of the last seven points to close out the match.
Matthew Anderson led Marian with three kills, while teammate Jay Hochstetler added three assists and five digs. Providence was led by Marty Ross, who had four kills and a block, and Brendan Surane, who contributed three kills and two blocks.
"I"m extremely happy with the whole year," Marian coach Bob Piekarski said. "Since I've taken the program over this year, we've almost doubled our wins from last year, morale is up, and the kids are playing a ton better.
"Considering what they were up against, I thought they did a great job."