Meeting for the fourth consecutive year in a Division II district championship match, it was Lady Lex that avoided disaster in a winner-take-all fifth game.
Lexington rebounded after a Norwalk run, and took a 25-19, 25-23, 20-25, 20-25, 15-12 win to advance to the regional semifinals.
"We knew it was going to be a battle and we knew we had to play well," Lexington coach Jennifer Moore said. "We had a lot more errors than we would have hoped to have. If we could have limited the errors, we might have been able to get out of here in three or four games."
Lexington (23-3) will take on Toledo Central Catholic in Thursday's regional semifinal at home. Norwalk ends its season with a record of 17-9.
"We were down two games and we pushed it to five. What more can I ask?" Norwalk coach Angie Kalizewski said. "My kids played really well. We are still tentative and young. We were going up against experience. Lexington played well, but we will get there."
Lex scored the first two points of Game 5 and never trailed in the game. It was not until a kill from Amelia Moore that allowed Lexington to open more than a two-point lead. That, coupled with a Norwalk error, pushed the Lexington lead to 11-7, forcing a timeout from Kalizewski.
Trailing 13-9, the Ladies in Blue got kills from Claire Kelley and Carly Bilton, and an error from the Lady Lex to get within a point. However, Lexington bounced back, and kills from Olivia Kearns and Allie Stoyko ended the match.
"When you get to a team like this with Lexington where you are so evenly matched, you can not let three- or four-point runs," Kalizewski said. "Everything is so close all the time, that it is so hard to make up those three or four points. We chipped away at it, but it was not enough."
It was Lexington that appeared to be on its way to a convincing, quick win. In the first game, a kill and block by Julia Kocher (16 blocks, 12 kills) increased the Lady Lex lead to 13-8. The Truckers got within two points once at 16-14, but Lexington whipped off the next three points.
Norwalk trailed, 23-19 late in the game, but Kocher added another kill, and a Norwalk net violation ended the game.
"Angie runs a specific, fast offense and we knew that coming in," coach Moore said. "We prepared for that and the girls did a great job of focusing on that and knowing what to do and when to do it."
The match continued close play in the second game. Lexington quickly scored the first three points before Norwalk responded with five points in a row. The Lady Lex then bounced back with seven straight points of their own for a 10-5 lead. Lexington never trailed the rest of game.
It was tied at 23, but Norwalk was whistled for a double hit, and an error gave Lexington the commanding 2-0 lead.
Norwalk did not roll over and allow Lexington an easy win. It reeled off the first five points of Game 3, and led the game from start to finish.
"After the second game, I just told the girls to play," Kalizewski said. "It’s the same old thing. We have been in this position many times. We wanted to come out and play with enthusiasm."
In Game 4, it was Lexington that took the first significant lead when it got four straight points for a 12-8 lead. Norwalk later ran off nine of 10 points for a 20-16 lead.
Lexington squeezed back within two points, but Smith and Mya Neuberger each hit a kill, and Lexington committed an error for game points. Norwalk tied the match when Bilton smacked one of her six kills.
"We knew we could not relax against Norwalk," Moore said. "We needed to stay focused, intense, and strong. We had too many errors on our side of the net, though. We had the desire to go back home and play."
The Norwalk defense was stout against the big hitting of Lexington. Senior Anne Davidson set a school-record with 63 digs. Olivia Ward added 32 digs, Elyse Balduff registered 24 digs, and Kelley had 22 digs.
"We played really good defense and that excites me," Kalizewski said. "That is usually our strong suit. You can not win without defense. We really focused on that."
Claire Kelley and Smith each had 10 kills, while Alaina Kelley had 47 assists. Ward smacked down 12 kills.
"We had a few challenges this season with injuries," Kalizewski said. "We had eight kids with injuries throughout the season. We were young, had a lot of injuries, but still made some noise."