Abby Markworth setting the ball in the Lions sectional semifinal loss to Willowbrook. | Bob Skolnik

Setter Abby Markworth and libero Kiley Mahoney are among the seniors at the forefront of the Lyons Township girls volleyball team’s recent run of excellence.

The Lions have enjoyed three straight 30-win seasons and Class 4A regional titles, the 2021 West Suburban Conference Silver Division title and several invitational titles.

About the only thing missing was to at least reach a sectional final. 

The Lions came their closest Monday but lost to Willowbrook 26-24, 25-22 in the hard-fought 4A Hinsdale Central Sectional semifinal.

“I thought this year would be the year, given our sectional change,” Mahoney said.

“Throughout the match, everyone was really nervous when we started playing because we lost to them (Aug. 30) and know they’re a good team and the crowd was really loud. Then everyone was starting to focus and we reset and stopped thinking too much about everything and just tried to play consistent volleyball. Fell short a little at the end.” 

The third-seeded Lions (30-8) had their chances with the second-seeded Warriors (37-1), leading 21-18 in the first set and rallying from an early second-set deficit to close to 21-20. LTHS also came within one at 22-21 and 23-22. Back-to-back Willowbrook kills closed out the match.

“It’s sad we fell short in both sets but just to see how we can come back, especially from being down in the first set. It was fun to see our team have the fight like we want to win this,” Markworth said. “It was nice being a senior this year, showing what LTVB is. We’ve learned from the previous seniors. I hope we just keep the program going on like that.” 

A four-year varsity player headed to George Washington, Markworth graduates as the program’s all-time leader in career assists. 

In all, the Lions lose 12 seniors, eight who played Monday.

“It’s truly incredible, the things they’ve done, the things they’ve brought to the program to. I’m excited for them and sad for us,” LTHS coach Jill Bober said.

“It’s a fun, winning record, especially with our super competitive schedule.” 

Markworth had 18 assists and 12 digs and Mahoney had six digs while earning nine service points with an ace. Other contributors included seniors Maggie Kachmarik (10 digs, four points, two aces), Grace Turner (6 kills, 2 blocks), Anabelle Montgomery (5 kills), Sienna Olson (4 kills) and Alita Folkening (2 blocks), junior Reagan Farnan (4 points, 6 points, ace), freshman Taylor Carroll (2 kills, 5 digs, 2 blocks) and sophomore Kate Heatherly (3 digs).

In the regular season, LTHS lost to Willowbrook 21-25, 26-24, 25-19. On Monday, the Lions trailed 5-1 and 14-7 in the first set and 14-10 in the second set.

“(Nearly winning) probably makes it tougher,” Bober said. “I think we were the opponent at times. I don’t think this is an indication of how we played the entire season. We came with such fire and energy for a majority of the matches and we came out a little bit timid tonight.” 

However in the first set, the Lions used Mahoney’s four-point serving swing with two Olson kills to close to 14-12. Later, a Montgomery kill and Carroll and Folkening block with Markworth serving gave the Lions the lead at 21-19.

Willowbrook scored the next four points. Turner’s kill forced a 24-24 tie. The Warriors scored the final two points with a kill and attack error.

In the second set, LTHS gained a 16-15 lead with Kachmarik’s ace and a Willowbrook illegal lift call. The Warriors then scored the next six points – all from kills – to pull ahead 21-16.  

The Lions won regionals by avenging a regular-season loss and beating No. 6 Downers Grove North 25-14, 23-25, 25-11 in the Riverside-Brookfield Regional final Thursday.

The past two seasons, the Lions lost in the sectional semifinals to perennial power Marist, which in turn lost in the sectional final to Mother McAuley, the 2022 state champion and 2021 state runner-up. McAuley was among this year’s regular-season losses. 

“Our schedule’s really tough and I think we proved ourselves throughout the year,” Mahoney said. “I feel a big help was from the seniors. Every single senior had their own role and did their own part. It’s just what LTVB culture is.”

Willowbrook reached the 2022 sectional finals and its first super-sectional in 2021. 

The Warriors are led by their Division I sisters senior Calli Kenny (8 kills, 4 aces, 14 assists, 10 digs) and junior Hannah Kenny (10 kills, 12 assists, 8 digs), committed to Marquette and Louisville, respectively. They also used 10 aces and a combined 12 kills from four other players.

Wednesday’s sectional final is against No. 1-seed Oak Park and River Forest (35-6), which handed the Warriors their only loss and beat LTHS Sept. 26.

“They definitely have really strong servers and we’ve been working on passing, too,” Mahoney said. “That was kind of surprising they were using such a diverse offense.”