LAWRENCE – Top-seeded Lawrence High was getting the surprise of its volleyball life in the Division 1 North final against St. John’s Prep here last night.
It wasn’t a good surprise. Lawrence hadn’t lost a single game in the postseason, blanking three straight opponents, but it was dominated by the Eagles, 25-18, in game one. The Lancers (23-1) looked confused and beatable.
“Yeah, and people think that when we lose like that, Lawrence doesn’t know how to come back,” admitted Lancers’ veteran coach Tony Hajjar.
“But I’ll tell you why we lost the first game and you can quote me on this – coach’s fault. I changed the lineup around. We’re playing St. John’s Prep (an extremely familiar rival) and I just changed things up, moving kids around. When we got to game two, I said, okay, we’re going back to the original lineup.”
The personnel didn’t really change for Lawrence, but the positioning by Hajjar did. And the Lancers, who were fired up on the floor and on the sidelines and who got some loud backing from a chanting, dancing crowd in the stands at Central Catholic, stormed back and pulled away from the Prep, 18-25, 25-18, 25-16, 25-11.
“That’s the best team we’ve played all year,” St. John’s Prep coach Scott Celli said after his second-seeded Eagles closed out the season at 20-4.
Eagles tri-captain Brian Keough, who drove Lawrence crazy with his powerful hitting in the early going, finished with 20 kills; senior tri-captain Sean Brennan had 33 assists and seven kills while senior tri-captain Zach Burt added nine kills.
However, Lawrence’s athleticism, confidence and experience more than offset all the good things St. John’s Prep did in game one.
Anibal Henriquez finished with 17 kills and Jason Henriquez chipped in 15 kills for the winners. Christian Mayi added 10 kills while setter Hiraldo Reibin, who played with superb skill and extraordinary composure, piled up 42 assists.