NAPERVILLE, Ill. (MCVL.org) - Before a raucous group of fans from both schools, the first five-set match in MCVL tournament history went to the underdog and fourth-seeded Loras, 3-2, over top-seeded North Central. The Duhawks, 14-10 overall, advance to the MCVL Championship Match against No. 2 Carthage at 2 p.m. tomorrow inside Merner Field House.
North Central accomplished much this season, earning the regular-season championship, but its season will end with a 17-8 record.
Loras won the first set, 25-22, but the Cardinals dominated the second, 25-14. The Duhawks came right back with a 25-21 win in set three, but set four went much like set two as North Central triumphed, 25-18. The opening stretch of set five went back-and-forth, but a service error by Loras and a kill by Brendan Crawford provided the first moment of breathing room for North Central at 5-3. The lead went to 7-4 on back-to-back kills from Crawford and Nick Lilley. The teams traded points for an 8-5 Cardinals' lead at the crossover.
North Central kept its three-point as Jake Braceros made it 10-7. Loras got the next two, however, on Dylan Ross' kill and a block by Alfredo Lopez. Jacob Zemba's kill made it 11-9 in favor of the Cardinals but a two-point answer came from Mihajlo Gomez' kill and another by Ross. North Central then scored what seemed like a pivotal two points on Zemba's kill and an attack error, forcing a timeout from Loras Head Coach Jeremy Thornburg.
Out of the timeout, the Duhawks rallied to score the final four points of the match. Ross notched a kill out of the timeout followed by an attack error from North Central. Ross recorded his match-high 20th kill to get his team to match point before Leo Peters followed with a block that sent the Loras players and fans into a frenzy.
Ross hit .459 with those 20 kills while adding seven digs. Lopez ran the Duhawk offense to near-perfection, finishing with 49 assists, six digs and three kills. Loras hit .237 for the match and had 11 total blocks as compared to North Central's five total blocks.
Lilley had a team-high 12 kills with a .219 hitting percentage while Braceros and Crawford both added 10 kills. Braceros and Samuel Kharasch tied for the team-lead with 11 digs. The Cardinals hit at a .264 clip and out-dug the Duhawks, 44-38.