Lincoln-Way Central needs 3 sets to top Providence Catholic

NEW LENOX – Momentum can turn in a blink of an eye or, as was the case Tuesday evening, on unforced errors.

Lincoln-Way Central (5-4) finally quit making errors when it mattered most as they beat Providence Catholic in a three-set thriller, 22-25, 25-15, 25-23.

“The unforced errors on our part really hurt us tonight, especially in the first set,” Central coach Mary Brown said. “But it’s always fun to play the team down the street, and tonight’s match was an exciting one, and I got a little worried in the third set.

It was back-and-forth to start the decisive third set. Tied 8-all, Providence scored seven consecutive points to lead 15-8 and seemed to be in control. During that run, the Knights committed six errors, giving the Celtics the momentum.

But the Knights seemed to get their act together and fought back, trailing 17-14 as Providence called time out. The Celtics scored three quick points after the time out on two kills by Erin Vallone and an ace by Kaitlyn Ternik to lead 20-14.

A service error by the Celtics (3-7) gave the Knights the opportunity they were waiting for as they scored the next five points to force another Celtics timeout. Providence then went ahead, 22-20, but the Knights again fought back with five of the last six points for the victory.

Senior Nicole Connolly led the Knights with eight kills, three digs and three blocks.

“Coming into tonight we were undefeated at home, and we wanted to keep it that way,” Connolly said. “For a lot of the night we were beating ourselves, and if we just eliminated the mistakes we knew we would be ok. Late in the third we really pulled it together, and the crowd helped on our home floor. We really shook off the mistakes and that is what coach [Brown] emphasized after the first set.”

The Celtics played their best volleyball of the night in the first set as they scored five consecutive points after being tied at 19. But the Knights came out on fire to begin the second set as they grabbed an 8-0 lead and never looked back in the second, winning 25-15.

“After the first set, we talked, and that is my secret about what I said to them,” Brown said with a laugh. “We knew we just had to eliminate our errors. We did watch film on them [Providence], so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But no matter who you play, you can’t have the unforced errors.”

Junior Mia Mattingly was big in the middle for the Knightswith seven kills and four blocks, which all seemed to come at the right time.

“Our stats are never really to one person because we are a very balanced team,” Brown said.

Providence had had trouble with the unforced errors all season, especially in the midst of a five match losing streak, and coach Lee Rucinski knows that has to change.

“We played our best tonight in the first set then we just seemed to never get anything going, and it was because of our errors,” Rucinski said. “We have to continue to work on footwork and being in the right position. To be honest, Central made a lot of errors, and that did help us, but in that third set they got it together when it mattered.”