CROWN POINT | Visions and reality often prove incongruent.
When Chesterton coach TR Harlan imagined his ideal lineup for this season back in training camp, he didn’t think the sectional opener would be his first chance to use it.
However, Ali Ostrom’s unlucky right ankle forced her to miss about 10 weeks and 22 matches, and the Trojans grew up without one of their three seniors -- the only 6-foot-1 player on the team.
“It feels good to be back,” said Ostrom, who has been back in action for about a week.
“When I was out I still supported the team, but it feels a lot better to be out on the court and help them succeed.”
Succeed they did, as Chesterton beat Portage for the third time this season, ousting the Indians 25-20, 25-15, 25-18 Thursday at the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional.
The Trojans (22-12) advanced to Saturday’s second semifinal, where they’ll face Valparaiso, Thursday night’s other winner. The Vikings (21-12) and Trojans split their matches in the regular season.
“All in all, it’s everything you want out of tonight,” TR Harlan said. “You get a win, get to go home as early as you can, get to practice (today) and get a chance to come back and play on Saturday.”
Chesterton lost its sectional opener last year and had many girls lacking postseason experience. Once junior Aubrey Nagdeman served up several points in a row and the Trojans adjusted to an unfamiliar Portage defensive scheme, Chesterton had control.
Sammi Ostrom, the 6-foot freshman sister of Ali, led the Trojans with seven kills. Brittany Milzarek, a 6-foot freshman who joined the varsity after Ali Ostrom’s injury, added six.
Ali Ostrom, who had offseason ankle surgery to repair torn tendons and then tore ligament in the same right ankle in the second match of the season, had four kills, two digs and two solo blocks.
“There was good energy tonight,” she said. “Everyone was playing together, and it was a pretty good effort.”
Portage (15-19), which has improved its win total each year under third-year coach Brian Zofkie, played close with Chesterton into the teens of each game.
The first game was tied at 16, the second at 11 and the third at 13.
“When you’re tied 10-10, it shows you can play with a team for 20 points, but after that it was tough for us to keep it up,” Zofkie said.
Seniors Mariah Wright and Josi Auksel led the Indians with five kills each.
“It (hurts) losing a great group of four seniors because they were a great group, and I have a tremendous appreciation for them,” Zofkie said. “Without them we wouldn’t have made the progress we made.”
In the nightcap, Michigan City’s high-energy play led the Wolves to a 15-12 lead in the opener after a 1-0 lead on a long match-opening volley. The game was tied seven times, including at 21-all, but a Dani Suiter solo block ended the game with Valpo on top 25-22 and quieted the Wolves, who struggled mightily in a 25-8 Game 2 loss and fell short 25-18 in the third.
“They came out super-energized, and a lot of our players were nervous with it being their first time in the sectional,” Valpo coach Katie Lenard said. “It was just a matter of getting everything worked out. (The second game) showed the girls what they are capable of.”
Kate Bontrager led the Vikings with 10 kills and 14 digs.
Brooke Westphal had 16 kills and 15 digs for the Wolves (6-25).