SOUTH STREATOR — Some senior savvy at the service line and sophomore spark at the net led the Lexington High School volleyball team to a 25-19, 25-19 victory over Cissna Park in the championship match of the Class 1A Woodland Sectional on Wednesday night.
Three straight service aces by senior Lauren Boyd provided the Minutemen with a bit of breathing room midway through the final set. Five kills by sophomore Jayden Standish, including three in a row, then gave Lexington a sufficient cushion to advance to face Newark in Friday's 7 p.m. Super-sectional at Serena.
"She's only a sophomore, but she's one of our go-to players," said Lexington coach Kristin Stauter of Standish, who led her team with 10 kills. "She chose a really good game to play one of the best games she's played all season. She was very consistent and I'm very proud of how she handled that. Being a sophomore, that's a big role to have to play."
Standish responded to the pressure by laying down four kills in a run that allowed Lexington to turn a 16-10 second set lead into a 21-11 advantage.
"I couldn't have done it without my teammates," Standish said. "Amazing sets, amazing passes, it was an all-around great game."
Moments earlier, Boyd's three consecutive aces put the match's momentum firmly in the hands of the Minutemen in helping them expand on an 11-9 lead.
"I just went back there and gave it all I had, basically," said Boyd, who also was a starter on a Lexington sectional championship team two years ago.
"The more she was (at the service line) the more confident she got," said Stauter. "She started serving harder and harder and that was a key, to be able to get that much of a lead in the second set."
The lead turned out to be vital as Cissna Park (31-5) refused to fold, even after Lexington had taken its 21-11 advantage.
"I challenged our kids in the last timeout to play with some heart, play with some energy, have a little faith and see what happens," Josh Landon said, in facing the 10-point deficit.
Led by senior standout Gabby Wessels, the Timberwolves responded with a late run and pulled to within 22-18.
The Minutemen were able to maintain their composure and finish strong while improving to 29-5.
"You can't get nervous in those situations," Standish said. "You just have to push through, believe in yourself, believe in your team and know you can do it."
Lexington also started the night in stout fashion, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set.
"Usually this year the pattern has been almost the opposite for us," said Stauter. "We're usually the team that's down at the beginning of the set. I think that gave us some confidence."
Lexington never trailed in the first set despite the efforts of Wessels, who led the Timberwolves with 10 kills. Anna Jennings had 16 assists and seven digs.
"(Lexington) controlled the tempo," Landon said. "They were able to keep us on our heels defensively by being the aggressors on offense. They did a good job of staying aggressive when they had their opportunities."
Like Boyd, Lexington's Emma White had nine service points while also contributing 25 assists. Sophomore Tia Hardt added nine digs.