Stagg’s players used music to get themselves pumped up and focused for Tuesday night’s Class 4A Sectional semifinal against host Lincoln-Way Central.
Whatever the songs were, they worked.
The Chargers came out firing and put the Knights on ice in short order in Game 1. Then, trailing by as many as four points fairly late in Game 2, they were able to reel Lincoln-Way Central in and finish off a 25-16, 26-24 victory that launched them into Thursday’s sectional final against Mother McAuley.
Lexi Mantas led the way for Stagg (32-6) with nine kills and four aces. Ali Conrad had seven kills, Jill Conrad 11 assists and five kills and Morgan Thomas 10 digs.
For Lincoln-Way Central (29-9), Jacqueline Langer had six kills, four blocks and 12 digs, Amanda Dolan five kills and nine blocks, Kaitlyn Siadek 19 assists, six digs and four blocks and Maria Brown six kills and seven digs.
“We’ve had confidence all season,” Ali Conrad said. “We’ve pulled out a lot of good games. At no point tonight did we ever feel that we were going to lose. We came out knowing today that we would get a nice win.”
Stagg hit Central with an offensive potpourri that started early with Mantas and continued later with Jill Conrad firing crosscourt sets from the right side to her twin sister on the left. A four-point service run by Alexa Janus made it 14-7. Later, Mantas had a four-point serving streak of her own that featured back-to-back aces.
“It seemed like we had a lot going on, obviously, from Lexi,” Ali Conrad said. “A lot of her tips, too, were really smart. And we knew that their line was open. When the sets were there, our hitters just knew to put it away.”
Central found its stride in Game 2, and almost managed a pull-away. It was 14-10 after a kill by Brown and 20-16 after an ace by Claire Vrabec and a kill by Langer.
The Knights were in front 23-20 when a hitting error sent Mantas to the line for Stagg. She responded with three clutch serves in a row, one of which went down for an ace, another resulting in a kill by Ali Conrad.
At 24-all, Stagg converted on a tip for kill by Ali Conrad on an assist from Thomas. A net violation on Central provided the final point.
“Stagg was so scrappy. They outplayed us on defense,” Central coach Kathy Sulkowski said. “We never got the spark we needed. I wish we could have finished it in Game 2, but we couldn’t quite get through.”