ST. JOHN | Hang around enough gyms and the routine cheers become white noise like elevator music.
There’s the letter-by-letter spelling of team and school names, the confirmed statement of a belief that so-and-so will win, and the list of classics continues.
Occasionally, however, a cheer becomes quite poignant given the context.
So when the Lake Central junior varsity started chanting “This is our house” with a few points to go in Thursday night’s match, it was well-timed and well-played.
The Times No. 5 Indians won their seventh consecutive match and remained unblemished in Duneland Athletic Conference home games with a convincing sweep of visiting No. 2 Valparaiso 25-16, 25-18, 25-19.
“It’s just about being home with the crowd and everyone supporting us,” Lake Central libero Danielle Ellis said. “We’re protecting our house.”
Ellis was 16-of-16 passing with 11 digs against a formidable group of Valparaiso hitters, and she served perfectly on 15 attempts, with five aces.
“First-ball contact keeps our team in system and gives us a lot of options,” Lake Central coach Tina Tinberg said. “Dani gives 200 percent. She’s ferocious, and that sets the tone.”
A 2-0 lead in games means nothing in the rough-and-tumble DAC, so Ellis’ string of eight points serving when the Indians were down 10-8 put L.C. up to stay and prompted the “This is our house” refrain five points later.
Chesterton, Michigan City and now Valpo have entered the L.C. gym and left without winning a single game.
“We executed on all levels, hitting and passing in system and serving aggressively to keep them out of system,” Ellis said. “The key was just errorless volleyball and staying aggressive.”
Lake Central middle Tori Gardenhire had 10 kills and four block kills, and Alyssa Stepney had four kills, four aces and four digs. Several long volleys prompted Valpo to chase balls way out of bounds, only for Gardenhire or Stepney to return the lobs with authority and crush Valpo’s momentum.
L.C. surged to a 7-2 lead in the first set, a 6-3 advantage in the third and survived seven ties in the early going of the second set to run away behind finishing touches from Stepney, Julia Kruzan (four kills) and Gardenhire.
“We’ve been working hard to establish chemistry, leadership and really instilling in the girls to have a sense of urgency and start strong,” Tinberg said. “We serve with more velocity and take teams out of system and put a lot of emphasis on our block.”
The win put the Indians (13-6, 5-1) and Vikings (9-6, 5-1) into a tie for first place in the conference. The Indians also beat Valparaiso in a best-of-three tournament match at Plymouth, though those don’t count in the DAC standings.
“They were extremely pumped,” Valpo coach Katie Lenard said of the Indians.
“They had heart to want to win every ball and every point. We just wanted to win the game, but (Lake Central was) impressive.”
The Vikings, led by Rachel Bontrager’s six kills and five apiece from Morgan Mikenas and Anna Clark, held a 10-8 lead in the third game and were within 10-9 in the first.
“For both teams, it was a high-intensity match,” Lenard said. “The DAC is wild. A lot of teams are strong.”