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Girls volleyball: Underclassmen Tori Gardenhire, Danielle Ellis coming up big for Lake Central

Lowell Athletic Director Patti McCormack hands game ball sectional trophy team captains Lake Central Indians Volleyball team after defeating Munster

Lowell Athletic Director Patti McCormack hands the game ball and sectional trophy to the team captains of the Lake Central Indians Volleyball team after defeating Munster in a 5 set match at Lowell High School on Saturday October 20, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 24, 2012 6:20AM



Lake Central underclassmen Tori Gardenhire and Danielle Ellis mean business when they step on the court.

It doesn’t matter if it’s practice or a match.

That’s why the upperclassmen love them on their team.

Both played huge roles in the Indians’ sectional championship win over Munster on Saturday as Gardenhire, a freshman, recorded a team-high 15 kills and Ellis, a sophomore, recorded a team-high 39 digs.

They will be even more critical if LC hopes to make history tonight in the regional championship match on the road against Valparaiso. The two teams face off at 7 p.m. for a chance to play in Saturday’s Huntington North Semistate semifinal match at 11:30 a.m. CST.

The Indians are looking to win their first regional crown since 1994. They lead the season series 2-1 over the Vikings.

None of those matches matter though.

“That would be such a special win to the administration, to my program and to my players,” Tinberg said of winning the regional title. “That would be something dear to my heart as a coach. I’m a pretty driven coach. I have personal goals of my own and I have my own competitive fire. It’d be pretty special considering the school has only won one regional title in history.”

Valparaiso comes in with plenty of motivation itself. The Vikings haven’t won a regional crown since 1991 and have beaten the Indians on their home floor this year.

Gardenhire (314 kills, 68 block kills, 52 aces) and Ellis (573 digs, 24 aces) will really need to step it up if they hope to advance past Tuesday.

But Tinberg isn’t worried about that.

“These are two type of players you just can’t turn off,” she said. “One is so offensive (Gardenhire) and if Tori is not blocking balls at the net then Dani is there in the back. They are young and relentless and the dedication level of these players is phenomenal. They are just dangerous and they come to play every time whether it’s practice or a match situation.”

Gardenhire started playing volleyball in the fourth grade.

She said she knew right away she was good at it and wanted to continue to get better.

“My mom started mentioning a few clubs when I was in fourth grade so I decided to try out and I made the top team and I started to think I can go somewhere in this,” Gardenshire said. “Then Tina noticed me and started training with me. It’s been an unbelievable ride.

“Honestly, I had no clue if I’d even make the varsity when I was a freshman.”

Ellis also started getting some major playing time as a freshman. But she’s really stepped up her game with a year of experience.

“She was a DS (defesnive specialist) that turned libero halfway through the season and earned her way to libero,” Tinberg said. “Both of them are so alike. They are never-say-die types of players and they would do anything for their team and their team’s success.”

Ellis did that and then some as Munster junior Shannon Farrell kept firing attack after attack in Saturday’s sectional championship match.

“We were really pumped up and knew what we wanted to do (against Munster),” Ellis said. “We’ve been in bigger holes and we believed in each other and helped each other and in the end we executed and stayed strong.”

She will need to be ready for hitters like Noelle Eveland, Madison Olsen and Kate Bontrager tonight.



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