More than 15 minutes after Monday’s match ended, Loyola senior Julia Martinez still was catching her breath.
That’s understandable, considering the Ramblers had completed an improbable comeback to beat Hersey 19-25, 26-24, 25-18 in the Class 4A sectional semifinals at Loyola.
After losing the first set, the top-seeded Ramblers (28-8) won the last six points of the second to extend the match. They trailed 14-10 in the third before putting together another rally. Martinez’s kill tied the final set at 15-all and was part of a 6-0 run that gave Loyola the lead for good.
“So tiring, but so exciting,” she said. “That was the most intense [match] I’ve ever played in. We showed a lot of heart out there. Everybody on our team contributed to the win.”
Getting to the third set seemed unlikely after the fourth-seeded Huskies led 24-20. But the Ramblers employed the well-worn cliché of taking it one point at a time, according to Martinez.
“We played every point like it could be our last because it could have been,” she said. “We didn’t want our season to end.”
Senior Lizzie Walker served the final five points to force the deciding set.
“Never experienced anything like it,” Loyola head coach Mallory Thelander said.
Loyola’s seniors were instrumental in the win.
Martinez finished with 13 kills, two blocks and two aces. Mary Kate Lopez had 12 kills, three blocks and two aces. Elizabeth Ford contributed three kills and five blocks, while Anne Martinson had two kills, three blocks and one ace. Walker had four kills and two aces, while Avery Bodkin finished with two kills.
Junior Jackie Yau totaled five kills and two blocks.
The Ramblers play Fremd on Wednesday in the sectional final. The Vikings beat second-seeded New Trier 23-25, 25-19, 26-24 in the other semifinal. Loyola is looking for its first sectional title since 2015.
“I’m so proud of our team,” Martinez said.