Timing can mean everything, and it certainly did for the Lyons Township boys’ volleyball team last week.
The Lions twice had the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with West Suburban (Silver) Conference rival Oak Park, which is also among the top volleyball teams in the state.
LT scored a 27-25, 11-25, 25-20 win Thursday at Oak Park to deal the Huskies their first conference loss.
The Lions would lose to Oak Park 25-17, 25-20 at the Downers Grove South Invitational on Saturday, but by virtue of winning the earlier contest, it’s LT that now has the inside track on a conference title.
“It makes our life much easier,” Lions coach Joann Pyritz said. “The thing is we still have three good conference schools left to play, and just because we beat Oak Park doesn’t mean someone else can’t trip us up along the way. But having beaten York and now Oak Park, we’ve kind of hit the peak of the hill and it will be easier to have the conference title in hand.”
LT had to rally to take the first match 27-25, and with the Huskies reeling off a 9-0 run in the second game, which Oak Park took 25-11, it looked like the Lions might have been on their heals for good.
But Pyritz said her team stuck with its game plan, which was to avoid Oak Park’s 6-foot-9 blocker Sean O’Malley.
“We didn’t want to hit it through his blocking area,” Pyritz said. “We didn’t want to run anything through his net zone because with his height and skill, he’s just going to block the ball.”
Instead the Lions were aggressive in sending the ball to the corners and setting off the net to avoid the big blocks. The strategy worked, because even though O’Malley finished with 22 kills, LT was still able to hang on for the big conference upset on the road.
“It just means we can set our sights a little higher,” Pyritz said. “Our goal is always to go downstate, but now we can set it higher because we’ve been there and beaten a top team. We know we can do it.”
At the Hinsdale South tournament on Friday, LT swept to two wins, beating Hinsdale South 25-17, 25-16 and downing Willowbrook 25-21, 25-21.
Oak Park was the first team the Lions faced Saturday, and the Huskies prevailed this time, 25-17, 25-20.
“I don’t think we came out mentally tough enough in that game,” Pyritz said. “We would have preferred beating them like we did in conference play. It also would have been nice to have played for a tournament championship, but to be in a position now to win conference?”we get to keep a plaque if we can hang on to conference. That’s one of our first goals every year.”
LT went on to lose 25-13, 25-13 to Maine South before rallying for a 28-26, 25-19 win against Glenbard East to finish seventh at the tournament. The Lions entered as the eighth seed.
LT played Hinsdale Central at home Tuesday and will play Hinsdale South on the road Thursday before going to the Lincoln-Way Central Invitational this Friday and Saturday.