Girls volleyball: Lincoln-Way East finds its way in a win over Lockport

Griffins take control of SWSC Blue race

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FRANKFORT – The Lincoln-Way East girls volleyball team has figured it out.

That means trouble for its opponents.

Tamia Maddox and Alaina Pollard combined for 25 kills as the Griffins came up big down the stretch and defeated Lockport 25-18, 20-25, 25-16 in a key SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division match Monday evening.

It was the eighth win in the past 10 matches for Lincoln-Way East (12-7, 4-0 SWSC Blue). The Porters (16-5, 3-1) had won 13 of 14 coming into the match.

“We are now definitely at our best,” Pollard said. “We were all figuring it out. We spent more time together as a team, and we want to come out and dominate.”

Pollard (9 kills, 5 blocks) was key at big times. With the score tied at 9 in the third set, the sophomore right side hitter banged a block and had a kill in an 8-1 run that was capped by an ace by junior defensive specialist Stella Drozd for a 17-10 lead.

Lockport never got closer than six the rest of the way. Ahead 22-16, Maddox (16 kills) sandwiched a pair of kills around a block by senior middle hitter Hayven Smith (3 kills, 5 blocks) to polish it off.

“Alaina is playing a new position,” first-year Lincoln-Way East head coach Sean Burns said. “She was a middle hitter last year and adjusted to moving to one of the pins. We showed some mental toughness and took over in Game 3.”

It also helps the Griffins when they have a defensive player like Lexi Byas. The senior libero had 19 digs, many of them on balls that looked destined to go down.

“Defense is my favorite part of the game,” Byas said. “My job is to get as many up as I can and have us stay in system. I like to help set the tone, but It’s really the whole team.

“We want to do the best we can in the conference. I feel that we have big potential to do really well the rest of the season.”

As he has been for the past three seasons, Lockport coach Nick Mraz was impressed with Byas.

“She made a play, and I looked at Lexi and said, ‘When do you graduate?’” Mraz said. “She’s incredible.”

The Griffins went on an early 8-2 burst in the opening set to take an 8-3 lead and led the rest of the way. Consecutive kills by Smith and Maddox ended the first set.

Trailing 7-4 in the second set, the Porters had their best stretch with a 9-0 blitz. Sophomore outside hitter Bridget Ferriter (10 kills) had three kills to start the spurt. Senior setter Lainey Green (25 assists) got in on the scoring with a kill and a tip block, and freshman middle blocker Kyla Mitchell (5 kills, 2 blocks) added a pair of kills.

A kill by Ferriter ended the second set. But she was held to three kills in the third set.

“We got them out of system in the second set, but we got overly predictive in the third,” Mraz said. “[The Griffins] were good in big moments. Our outside hitters swung over 60 times, and they dug it up or put up a good block.

“We will need some help in the conference. I’d rather control it ourselves and not count on it.”

Two years ago, Lockport won the SWSC Blue for the first time since 2008. The Griffins won it in 2020, and Bolingbrook captured its first conference crown last year.

Sophomore Maggie Simon had 15 assists and junior Victoria Tagler added 14 assists for Lincoln-Way East. Junior defensive specialist Madilyn Lopez added nine digs for the Porters.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to start the season,” Burns said. “But we’re hitting our stride now.”

Pollard believes so, too.

“Going into the third set we just knew we had to play hard and bring up the energy,” Pollard said. “We can be amazing. The potential is there.”