More than 15 minutes had passed after Lincoln-Way East's Jessica Lindsey and her senior teammates walked off their home court for the last time.
At that point, Lindsey let her emotions go and the tears ran down her face as she as was consoled by a teammate.
"That's OK, it shows that you care," East coach Linda Vivona said to her star right side hitter.
Lindsey certainly did, and it showed as she played the match of her life, establishing a new school record for most kills in a match with 25. But it wasn't quite enough as Sandburg rallied down the stretch for a 25-23, 24-26, 27-25 victory over East in an epic SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue battle Tuesday, Oct. 22, in Frankfort.
The victory was the 10th in a row for the Eagles as they improved to 27-7 and 6-0 in conference. With the win, they captured conference for the fifth straight season and seventh time in eight years.
The Griffins fell to 20-14 and 4-2.
"We talked beforehand how big it would have been to win this one," Vivona said. "The girls fought hard."
Lindsey, who added 10 digs, played hard the entire match. In her final home match, she broke the school record for kills previously set by Kathryn Langheld, who had 22 in 2002.
"It's bittersweet," Lindsey said of establishing the new record. "I'd rather have won the match. It means more to my team. We really wanted it."
While Lindsey had an amazing amount of kills, it was an attack that somehow got returned that helped turn the final game in Sandburg's favor. That memorable play, an over-the-shoulder return from beyond the baseline by Sandburg senior Bridget Lebert, helped the Eagles rally in Game 3.
"That was definitely a momentum-changer," Lebert said.
The Griffins were on the verge of winning after back-to-back kills by Lindsey had given them a 24-21 lead. But Sandburg turned back three straight match points as Lebert lambasted a kill, junior setter Sami Knight (38 assists, 9 digs) snuck in a second ball kill and a block by junior right side hitter Leah Lane (16 kills, 2 blocks) tied the game at 24.
Lindsey looked to give her team the lead once more with another kill. It looked like she would be successful, but Sandburg senior libero Kelly McGovern (23 digs) made a one-handed save to keep the ball alive. The ball went backward, and Lebert, running with her back to the net, sent an over-the-head 33-foot return sailing over the net.
The stunned Griffins tried to dig up the ball, but it went into the net and fell from there for a point and a Sandburg lead.
"Honestly, when I looked back, I really didn't think it went over," Lebert said. "I don't even know how I did that, to be honest. I just swung my hardest."
East tied the match at 25 on a final kill by Lindsey. But the Eagles scored the final two points on back-to-back kills by senior middle hitter Kelly Finlay (9 kills), with the final one on a quick set from Knight.
"There was a lot of passion out there," Vivona said. "I was proud that in the second set there was a sense of pride with how we carried ourselves. We fought with great tenacity."
"We worked really hard and kept fighting," she said. "When we came back and won that second set, that showed a lot of perseverance with our team. It's a tough loss, but it was a really good match against a really good team, and I'm glad we had a really good showing against them right before sectionals."
East senior libero Macie Lawrence had 14 digs and four aces, while senior setter Taylor Nirchi distributed 36 assists and had 10 digs. Freshman outside hitter Becca Lilley had six kills and five digs. Junior outside hitter Josie Wierzal added five kills.
The Griffins rebounded to win Thursday, Oct. 24, defeating Joliet Central 25-17, 25-10 in their final SWSC Blue match of the season. Nirchi had 17 assists, and Lindsey had eight kills.
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