The bus ride to Riverside-Brookfield was long enough for Hinsdale Central’s seniors to have a heart-to-heart talk.
“Literally, we talked during the whole bus ride here about how much we wanted [to win],” Virginia-bound setter Meghan McDowell said.
Looking at its record, few would have given sixth-seeded Hinsdale Central a chance against second-seeded St. Ignatius.
But Central’s seniors didn’t pay attention to seeds and records and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the Class 4A playoffs with a 25-22, 18-25, 25-21 victory Tuesday night in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional semifinal. The 6-foot-4 McDowell led the way with eight kills, four blocks and 16 assists.
In the final set, the Red Devils (13-25) called a timeout after seeing a 23-19 lead cut to 23-21 by the Wolfpack (28-10) on a block by Gabby Diamond and a kill by Connecticut-bound Camille Evans (seven kills, two aces). Hinsdale came out of the timeout by getting a sideout on a back slide to middle hitter Dominique Millette off McDowell’s assist. Lucy Crofton (seven kills) then ended the match with a kill. Her previous kill gave the Devils a 23-19 lead.
“We got our jitters out,” McDowell said. “We worked hard. The was the best match we’ve had all season.”
The other starting seniors to lead Hinsdale were Coco Bergdoll (seven kills), Millette (four kills, three blocks) and libero Rachael Lenderman (two aces). Sophomore Lauren Fuller added seven kills.
St. Ignatius scored six of the match’s first seven points, but the Devils later broke a 20-all tie by scoring three of the next four points. McDowell spread the ball around as five different players earned kills for Central in the first set. In the second set, the Wolfpack took control by scoring 10 consecutive points to take a 14-3 lead.
Behind McDowell and the 6-3 Millette, the Devils also outblocked St. Ignatius 10-3 in the match.
The loss ended the career of St. Ignatius’ Wake Forest-bound setter Sophia Dodd, who lives in Hinsdale. One other Division recruit, Casey Harris (Illinois-Chicago), had five kills for the Wolfpack.
“We really had confidence in the second set,” Dodd said. “After that, I think we were kind of laid back a little bit. We didn’t have the confidence like we did before.”
Central will play District 86 rival and top-seeded Hinsdale South (31-7) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the sectional final. The Hornets have won 13 consecutive matches and defeated fourth-seeded Oak Lawn (25-8) 25-10, 26-24 earlier Tuesday. Hinsdale South defeated Central 25-19, 23-25, 25-15 on Oct. 16 in Darien.
“This was our first big win in a while, especially for Central. It’s been so many years,” Bergdoll said. “We’re finally coming together.”