LOWELL | The deflected tri-color Molten Super Touch volleyball headed toward the crevasse between the bleachers and the wall in the Northwest corner of "The Pit," completely unplayable even for the most fearless player.
Milliseconds after it touched down, Lake Central players erupted in joy. Gina Cybulski had hammered the ball so hard across the net to Highland that the Trojans had trouble just getting a piece of it.
The out-of-bounds deflection off Highland ended a 28-26 Game 2 marathon win for Lake Central as the Indians swept their way in to Saturday's Class 4A Lowell Sectional semifinals with a 25-19, 28-26, 25-13 Thursday victory.
The Indians (15-16) will meet E.C. Central (15-9), which ousted West Side 25-8, 25-8, 25-5 in Thursday's other match, at approximately 12:30 p.m. Saturday after Munster faces Lowell.
"We knew as long as we were able to keep our heads up ... we could push to win the game," Lake Central outside hitter Katie Wagenaar said. "(By the third game) we knew we were on the edge and needed to push hard to finish."
After Lake Central cruised to a 15-8 lead and the Game 1 win, Highland opened up a 7-1 lead to start the second game. L.C. rallied to tie the game at 12, 14, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 before a long hit by the Trojans fell out of bounds to give L.C. a 27-26 edge before the final kill.
"That definitely turned the momentum, when you can be relentless like that and dig out of a hole and put the hammer down," L.C. coach Tina Tinberg said. "That definitely was the mental edge we needed going into the third set."
From there, Wagenaar (10 kills, 2 blocks) and Nikki Adams (4 kills, 2 blocks) controlled the middle as the Indians kept the exhausted Trojans (16-15) from regaining any kind of roll.
"All that conditioning we do in practice helped us push to the end," Adams said. "You could tell they wanted it and were fighting for it. We kind of shut them down."
Cybulski helped the Indians with six kills, which was the same number that E.C. Central leading hitter DeAuntra Pryor had in the easy win for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals were never really challenged by the Cougars (3-6), but E.C. faces a tough road as senior middle hitter Tashay Riley is out with a fractured ankle. Freshman Carissa Sullivan was pressed into extended action as a result but played well Thursday. So did Vanessa Vasquez, who served up eight aces.
"The girls have been working really hard all year, so it was nice to come up with a good win," ninth-year coach Cindy Wilson said. "(Against Lake Central), the girls just have to hustle."