LUTZ — Lakewood's margin for error in the latter stages of the fourth game Wednesday night against Steinbrenner wasn't slim.
It was nonexistent.
But though his team trailed 24-19 (and two games to one), Spartans coach Sean O'Flannery wasn't ready to wave a white flag.
"I always felt we could come back and win," O'Flannery said.
Lakewood did, first by winning that game, then by rallying again in the fifth to claim a dramatic 25-22, 18-25, 19-25, 26-24, 15-13 victory in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs that left the Warriors shocked and those inside the gymnasium in awe.
"My heart was beating the whole time," O'Flannery said.
Asked if she had ever seen the type of comeback Lakewood (15-9) produced in the fourth, outside hitter Berkley Whaley, the player most responsible for the Spartans' win, thought for a second, then replied, "No, actually."
The 6-foot-1 Whaley, an outside hitter, played out of this world, finishing with a match-high 43 kills. In the fourth, she recorded three straight kills to give her team the lead. In the fifth, she produced four in a row to give it the match.
"She's an unbelievable player," Warriors coach Staci Elias said.
Setter Michelle Scannell did an excellent job running the Lakewood offense. And when Whaley wasn't putting balls away, hitter Lindsay Dodge was.
For Steinbrenner (22-5), a first-year program, outside hitters Kristen Liguori and Natalia Ortiz led the attack, with players such as middle blocker Megan Moyer contributing quite a bit.
"We had our chances," Elias said. "We tried to put them away and didn't do it."