IHSA finals preview: who will raise a championship trophy this weekend?

Camryn Hannah (6) and her Marist teammates will go for their third consecutive Class 4A championship this weekend at Redbird Arena. (Photo by Dave Ruggles)

Wheaton Warrenville South’s Bill Schreier has won more state titles than any other Illinois volleyball coach … on the boys’ side.

But the veteran coach has not taken a girls’ team to the IHSA semifinals since 2002, when the Tigers finished fourth.

That changed last Friday when Wheaton Warrenville South (32-8) overcame deficits of 8-2 in Game 1 and 18-10 and 21-13 in Game 2 to defeat Huntley, 26-24, 25-23, in a Class 4A supersectional at Streamwood.

Wheaton Warrenville South will meet a team with an even longer tournament drought, (Palatine) Fremd (36-4), which has not advanced to state since 1988, in a Class 4A semifinal at 7:00 p.m. on Friday at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal.

“It’s been a little while getting to state,” said Schreier, who has won seven boys’ state titles. “I guess you can say it should be easy to do given all the success we’ve had on the guys’ side. But still, you never know what’s going to happen on any given day.

“There were a lot of No. 1 seeds that went down (during the tournament),” he added. “We were able to persevere and pull it out.”

Setter Sarah Burau, a four-year starter for the Tigers, has endured some of the tough times for the Wheaton Warrenville South girls’ volleyball team.

“We’ve come so far from my freshman year when we were 14-23,” she said. “Coach Schreier has been talking nonstop about 2002 when they finished fourth. We needed to live up to that, and this year we really tried our hardest to.”

Thanks to the IHSA’s “rolling of the peas” that determines the brackets, either Wheaton Warrenville South or Fremd will avoid arguably the state’s two best teams and perennial Redbird residents – two-time defending champion Marist (38-2) and three time state champion Benet (39-1) – until the championship game.

Marist and Benet will meet for the third time this season in Friday’s final semifinal at 8:30 p.m. The teams split their previous two meetings. Marist is ranked No. 9 and Benet No. 10 nationally by Prepvolleyball.com.

(Note: After correctly predicting 15 of 16 supersectionals, Illprepvb.com is going out on a limb again this weekend.)

Here’s a look at the four tournament fields: 

Class 4A

Benet junior setter Rachel Muisenga (18) will lead the Redwings against two-time defending Class 4A champion Marist in Friday’s final semifinal at Redbird Arena. (Photo by Dave Ruggles)

Fremd (36-4) vs. Wheaton Warrenville South (32-8), 7:00 p.m.
Benet (39-1) vs. Marist (38-2), 8:30 p.m.

How they got here: Fremd def. Hoffman Estates (25-7, 25-17), New Trier (21-25, 25-20, 25-20), Hersey (25-23, 22-25, 25-17), Glenbrook South (25-16, 23-25, 25-16) and Libertyville (25-17, 25-22); Wheaton Warrenville South def. Leyden (25-10, 25-10), Maine South (25-19, 25-13), Downers Grove South (25-9, 25-15), Downers Grove North (25-15, 25-13) and Huntley (26-24, 25-23); Marist def. Proviso East (25-9, 25-17), Stagg (25-12, 25-14), Argo (25-6, 25-6), Mother McAuley (25-21, 25-13) and Sandburg (25-21, 25-22); Benet def. Plainfield South (25-2, 25-21), Plainfield Central (25-19, 25-22), Naperville Central (25-12, 25-17), Waubonsie Valley (25-19, 25-17) and Minooka (25-17, 25-17).
Players to watch: 5-10 sophomore OH Rylen Reid (Fremd), 5-11 sophomore S Rian Baker (Fremd), 5-10 senior OH Breslen Reid (Fremd), 6-1 junior OH Zayna Meyer (Wheaton Warrenville South), 6-0 senior S Sarah Burau (Wheaton Warrenville South), 5-8 sophomore L Darby Harris (Wheaton Warrenville South), 5-6 senior L Hattie Monson (Benet), 6-0 junior S Rachel Muisenga (Benet), 6-0 senior OH Sophie Gregus (Benet), 6-1 senior RS Camryn Hannah (Marist), 5-11 senior OH Avery Jedry (Marist), 5-10 senior OH Maddie Arundel (Marist).  
Checking out the field: What were you doing 31 years ago? In 1988, Fremd was making its first – and only until this season—appearance in the IHSA semifinals when former coach Dave Boze led the Vikings to a fourth-place finish in the days of two classes and side-out scoring. The Vikings, who feature four sophomores in the starting lineup, are back for what could be the beginning of a string of semifinal appearances. If there is a knock against Fremd, it’s the difficulty of schedule. Other than Naperville Central on Day 1, Fremd has played only one top 10 team all season – Hersey, in the Mid-Suburban League championship game, and again in a sectional semifinal. In the second semifinal, Marist and Benet meet for the third time this season. Benet overcame a 21-15 deficit in Game 3 to defeat Marist, 22-25, 29-27, 25-22, to win the Wheaton Classic. Marist got even a month later, beating Benet on the south side, 25-13, 25-21, as part of its current 26-match win streak. Ironically, the roles were reversed last year. Marist defeated Benet to win the Wheaton Classic, and Benet defeated Marist a few weeks later in Lisle. Marist won the third meeting between the two in last year’s semifinals on the way to its second consecutive Class 4A crown. The two teams have combined to win five of the last eight championships. Benet won in 2011, 2012 and 2014, Marist has won the last two. Benet got very little production from its outside hitters the last time the two teams met after getting 27 kills from its three pin hitters at Wheaton. Meanwhile, 6-1 freshman Kamryn Chaney has emerged as a solid two-way threat for Marist.
Did you know? Three of the last five Wheaton Classic champions have gone on to win IHSA championships.
Illprepvb.com’s pick: Marist.

Class 3A

Joliet Catholic’s 6-3 middle hitter Bella Ray (14) and her teammates hope to do more celebrating this weekend at Redbird Arena.

Sterling (34-6) vs. Nazareth (28-7), 4:00 p.m.
Normal U-High (33-6) vs. Joliet Catholic (25-14), 5:30 p.m.

How they got here: Sterling def. Galesburg (25-9, 25-11), Dunlap (25-10, 25-12), Metamora (25-15, 25-12), LaSalle-Peru (25-21, 25-19 and Belvidere North (23-25, 25-15, 28-26); Nazareth def. (Chicago) Business and Finance (forfeit), (Chicago) Noble/Bulls (25-7, 25-8), Fenwick (25-15, 25-12), St. Ignatius (20-25, 25-22, 25-18) and St. Francis (25-19, 25-21); Normal U-High def. Lincoln (25-8, 25-16), Bloomington (25-17, 25-18), Mahomet-Seymour (25-23, 25-18), Rochester (25-22, 25-18) and Centralia (25-12, 25-15); Joliet Catholic def. Oak Forest (25-11, 25-17), Morris (25-13, 25-11), Lemont (25-11, 21-25, 25-22), Providence (25-21, 25-20) and De La Salle (25-15, 25-20).
Players to watch: 6-1 junior OH Brooklyn Borum (Sterling), 6-1 junior S/OPP Breelyn Borum (Sterling), 5-7 junior L Lexi Hernandez (Sterling), 5-11 senior S Ella Sandt (Nazareth), 6-0 sophomore OH Katie Hurta (Nazareth), 5-11 junior OH Izzy Decker (Nazareth), 5-10 senior S/OH Isabel Schaefbauer (Normal U-High), 6-2 senior OH Alayna Crabtree (Normal U-High), 5-6 freshman OH Lily Barry (Normal U-High), 6-0 junior OH Jillian Gray (Joliet Catholic), 6-3 senior MH Bella Ray (Joliet Catholic), 5-8 junior setter Ryan Hinshaw (Joliet Catholic).   
Checking out the field: Defending Class 3A champion Sterling fought off a match point and survived its supersectional showdown against Belvidere North behind 6-0 junior outside hitter Brooklyn Borum (25 kills, 20 digs) and some late heroics by freshman Grace Egan. Sterling has lost only once – to Normal U-High on October 26 in Normal – since Brooklyn Borum returned from a mid-season absence. Sterling freshman Grace Egan does not play like a freshman and shouldered much of the offensive load during Brooklyn Borum’s absence. Nazareth had a somewhat easier time getting past St. Francis in its supersectional match, avenging a loss to the Spartans in last year’s sectional to earn its first-ever semifinal berth. Nazareth and Joliet Catholic both hail from the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which produced Class 4A semifinalists Marist and Benet. Joliet Catholic is making its 10th appearance in the state semifinals under Chris Scheibe, who is looking for her fourth state title in this, her 20th season at the reins. Motivation? There’s plenty to go around. Normal U-High has a score to settle with Joliet Catholic, which eliminated the Pioneers in a sectional final last year. Joliet Catholic has a score to settle with Sterling, which defeated the Angels in a Class 3A semifinal in 2018. Normal U-High finished third in 2017, but is looking for its first championship since 2001. U-High coach Mike Bolhuis is no stranger to the winner’s circle, however, leading Deer Creek-Mackinaw to a 2A title in 2012 while still a student at Illinois State.   
Did you know? Normal U-High freshman Lily Barry led Hartsburg-Emden to an IESA Class 8-1A championship last winter.
Illprepvb.com’s pick: Sterling.

Class 2A

Decatur St. Teresa’s Lexi Huck (28) and the Bulldogs finished third in Class 1A in 2018. They hope to improve upon that finish in Class 2A this weekend. (Photo by Dave Ruggles)

St. Joseph-Ogden (36-4) vs. Breese Mater Dei (30-9), 12:00 p.m.
Rockford Lutheran (35-5) vs. Decatur St. Teresa (35-5), 1:30 p.m.

How they got here: St. Joseph Ogden def. Fithian Oakwood (25-5, 25-8), Monticello (25-17, 25-14), Seneca (25-17, 25-11), Herscher (25-19, 12-25, 25-23) and Chicago Christian (15-25, 25-23, 25-16); Breese Mater Dei def. Roxana (25-11, 25-11), Columbia (25-14, 25-8), Freeburg (28-26, 25-13), Pinckneyville (25-18, 25-10) and Fairfield  (25-11, 25-18); Rockford Lutheran def. Genoa-Kingston (25-22, 25-11), Marengo (25-21, 25-19), Rock Falls (21-25, 25-18, 25-19), Montini (17-25, 25-19, 25-23) and Timothy Christian (25-22, 25-23); Decatur St. Teresa def. Williamsville (25-17, 25-18), Sacred Heart-Griffin (25-16, 25-17), Quincy Notre Dame (25-8, 25-23), Downs Tri-Valley (25-11, 25-16), and Orion (19-25, 25-19, 25-14).
Players to watch: 5-10 sophomore OH Kennedi Burnett (St. Joseph-Ogden), 5-7 senior S Emily Bigger, 5-8 sophomore OH Tori Mohesky (Breese Mater Dei), 5-11 junior S/OPP Jessie Timmerman (Breese Mater Dei), junior L Audrey Lampe (Breese Mater Dei), 5-8 junior OH Lauren Spangler (Rockford Lutheran), 5-11 sophomore OH Kylie Wilhemi (Rockford Lutheran), 5-11 senior MB Katie Wilhemi (Rockford Lutheran), 5-11 senior S/OPP Lexi Huck (St. Teresa), 5-10 sophomore OH Valerie Nutakor (St. Teresa), 5-8 senior OH Abby Robinson (St. Teresa).
Checking out the field: Ignore Mater Dei’s nine losses. The Knights have played some of the state’s best teams, including Belleville Althoff twice, Edwardsville, Plainfield North and Normal U-High. That schedule has paid off during the tournament where the Knights have yet to be tested. However, Mater Dei did lose to Decatur St. Teresa, which had its coming-out party at the Quincy Notre Dame tournament on October 26 where it beat both Mater Dei and Quincy Notre Dame. Unlike Mater Dei, St. Teresa was pushed in its supersectional by Orion’s 1-2 punch of Mackenzie Grafton and Sarah Jacobsen, but prevailed in three sets. St. Joseph-Ogden pulled off one of the biggest surprised of the tournament when it ousted Chicago Christian on the Knights’ home floor in the supersectional after surviving its sectional final match against Herscher. But there may not have been a bigger upset in the Class 2A tournament than Rockford Lutheran’s sectional championship victory over Montini, which dropped down a class after reaching a Class 3A sectional final in 2018. Rockford Lutheran coach and former Indiana star Jordan Haverly is no stranger to Redbird Arena. She led Keith County Day to a Class 1A runner-up finish as a high school senior in 2007.
Did you know? Breese Mater Dei moved down a class after losing to Belleville Althoff in a Class 3A sectional final, and Decatur St. Teresa moved up a notch after finishing third in Class 1A  in 2018.
Illprepvb.com’s pick: St. Teresa.

Class 1A

Madi Malone (16) and the Newark juggernaut rolls into Redbird Arena this weekend looking for their second consecutive IHSA championship. (Photo by Dave Ruggles)

Athens (30-5) vs. Newark (39-2), 9:00 a.m.
Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (36-2) vs. Illini Bluffs (39-1), 10:30 a.m.

How they got here: Athens def. Mt. Pulaski (25-13, 25-17), Springfield Lutheran (22-25, 25-22, 25-14), Mendon Unity (28-26, 25-16), Lewistown (25-23, 25-19), and Greenfield (25-7, 25-4); Newark def. Hinckley-Big Rock (25-0, 25-6), Somonauk (25-6, 25-8), Schaumburg Christian (25-7, 25-15), Morgan Park Academy (25-6, 25-8), Willows Academy  (25-15, 25-14) and Dakota (25-23, 25-12); Norris City-Omaha-Enfield def. Wolf Lake (25-6, 25-4), Cobden (25-13, 25-6), Grayville (25-11, 21-25, 25-22), Woodlawn (25-22, 25-20) and Altamont (25-21, 24-26, 25-21); Illini Bluffs def. Peoria Christian (25-5, 25-12), West Prairie (25-23, 25-12), Princeville (25-17, 26-24), Elmwood (25-12, 25-16) and Milford (25-22, 25-20).
Players to watch: 6-0 senior MH/OH Caroline Lendy (Athens), 5-7 senior OH Adrien Barrett (Athens), 5-2 freshman L Becky Barrett, 6-0 junior OH Madi Malone (Newark), 6-0 sophomore OH Megan Williams (Newark), 6-0 senior MB Mattie Chapman (Newark), Emilee Bishop (Norris City-Omaha-Enfield), senior OH Emilee Bishop (NCOE), junior OH Evie Duncan (NCOE), freshman MH Hollan Everett (NCOE), 5-10 senior OH Hanna Hicks (Illini Bluffs), Hannah Avery (Illini Bluffs), Peyton Pullman (Illini Bluffs).
Checking out the field: Is there anybody here who can stop defending 1A champion Newark and its star outside hitter Madi Malone? The Lady Norsemen’s only losses this season were at the hands of a pair of Class 3A teams – St. Thomas More at the Mt. Pulaski tournament and at Geneseo in the regular-season finale. Newark also beat a couple of 3A teams in Morton and Metamora at the Bloomington Central Catholic tournament. Athens destroyed Greenfield in the supersectional behind its talented duo of Caroline Lendy and Adrien Barrett, but its best weapon against Newark may come at the service line where the Warriors have been credited with 220 aces. Keeping Newark out of system may be Athens’ best defense against a young, tall and talented Newark front line. Norris City-Omaha-Enfield is back at Redbird for the second time in four years after finishing fourth in 2016. Five Cardinals have 100 kills or more, led by Emilee Bishop (263) and Evie Duncan (240). Six-foot freshman middle hitter Hollan Everett has filled in nicely for Halle Everett, NCOE’s all-time kill leader who graduated last spring. Illini Bluffs lost to Deer Creek-Mackinaw in a 2A regional final in 2018, and its only loss in 2019 was to 2A supersectional finalist Orion on October 12 at the Monmouth United tournament. Illini Bluffs’ coach Nancy Meyer is making her first visit to Redbird in her 28th season at the helm.  
Did you know? Several members of the Illini Bluffs volleyball team played on the school’s softball team that finished second in Class 1A last spring.
Illprepvb.com’s pick: Newark.

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