GURNEE – Prairie Ridge had one block in Friday's Class 4A Gurnee Warren Supersectional.
It was a really big one.
Wolves seniors Sammi Lockwood and Jayden Otto timed their jumps perfectly at the net and combined to stuff Loyola Academy's Julia Martinez, giving the Wolves a dramatic first-set victory.
Lockwood jumped up and down in celebration, and junior outside hitter Hannah Baudin gave Lockwood a celebratory shove.
Top-seeded Prairie Ridge rode the momentum in the second set and went on to beat No. 1-seeded Loyola Academy, 29-27, 25-14, to advance to the state tournament for the third time in school history.
The Wolves (29-10) will play Downers Grove North in a state semifinal about 8:30 p.m. Friday at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal. Prairie Ridge last went to state in 2004 and 2005, finishing runner-up both times.
"We just wanted it so badly," said Lockwood, a Notre Dame commit who had nine kills. "Adrenaline and pure bliss that I can help my team in that final point. All of the emotions that were running through us kind of pushed us when we weren't playing our best."
The Ramblers (30-9) had two set points in the first set against Prairie Ridge – leading at 25-24 and 27-26.
Both times, the Wolves rose to the challenge. Lockwood tied the set at 27 with her fourth kill, and Olivia Annen followed with an ace before Lockwood and Otto's combined block sent Prairie Ridge's side into a frenzy.
"We just had to stay confident and stay calm," said Annen, who had six kills and six digs. "It's really easy to get caught up in the moment and worry about making a mistake. We just had to be confident in our play and know that we have the next point, and we're going to score no matter what."
Otto led all players with 30 assists and had a team-best two aces and six digs. The four-year setter said the atmosphere inside Almond Gymnasium was among the loudest and most intense she's ever been a part of.
"I'm feeling a lot of emotions, mostly excitement," Otto said. "It's like happy tears that we finally pulled this off. The atmosphere was super loud and energetic, and most of our school came to support us, so that really helped. It was amazing."
Prairie Ridge trailed early, 3-1, in the second set but overtook the Ramblers with four straight points and never trailed again. With Otto serving, the Wolves used an 8-0 run to turn a 10-7 lead into an 18-7 advantage.
Prairie Ridge led by as many as 13 points in the second set. Baudin sent over the final kill to clinch the Wolves' state berth.
"At the beginning, I was really nervous," said Baudin, who had a team-best 10 kills. "But then in the end, I knew we were going to push through and win. I don't know what to say, I was crying.
"We really wanted to win, and we've been working so hard this whole season to go to state."
Trinity Sheridan had seven kills for the Wolves, Maddie McGuire had three, and Olivia Jost added four digs. Anna Tulke had one of five aces for Prairie Ridge.
STAR OF THE MATCH
Prairie Ridge, sr., S
Otto recorded 30 assists with a team-leading two aces and six digs in a 29-27, 25-14 supersecitonal win over Loyola Academy.
3: Prairie Ridge will make its third state tournament appearance in school history.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
The Wolves took second at the Class AA state tournament in both 2004 and 2005.