Marist guts out win over Minooka in 4A; Belleville Althoff, St. Thomas More, Payson Seymour also win

Class 3A champion Belleville Althoff
Savannah Thompson never had a doubt.

“Honestly, in the back of our heads there was no doubt,” said Marist’s 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter. “We had no doubt. The whole time I knew the other 17 girls, we wanted it just as bad and it feels freaking great to do right now, right here with these girls.”

Thompson had 14 kills and 13 digs, Molly Murrihy added 32 assists and Maggie Meyer had 9 kills as Marist (41-1) defeated Minooka with a gutty 22-25, 25-22, 25-15 victory in the IHSA Class 4A state championship game Saturday at ISU’s Redbird Arena.

Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said it was sheer toughness that carried the RedHawks against the potent Minooka lineup and to the school’s first girls volleyball state title.

“Sheer toughness,” he said. “Sheer grit, sheer toughness, all mental. That’s all we talked about. They’re (Minooka) a tough team. They have some firepower across the board. They have a huge block and play great defense. You’ve got to grind it out.

“The end the second game says it all about our team, it says it all about our seniors, it says it all about our season,” Vidovic said. “We just found a way. We were ready. Our seniors – Molly, Maggie, Grace (Green) and Savannah — they carried us all the way through.”

After Minooka (39-3) ended Game 1 on a kill by Alli Papesh, the Indians used a 5-1 to wipe out a 20-17 deficit in the second set and take a 22-21 lead. But kills by Meyer, Thompson and a pair of Minooka errors forced a third game.

“My teammates put me in great position to play that way,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t be the player that I am without these girls around me. I owe it all to them.”

Minooka took an 8-4 lead in the third set, but Marist used runs of 5-0 and 12-3 to force the Indians to burn two timeouts. The run swelled to 18-5, and Murrihy’s dump at match point send the RedHawks scrambling into a scrum at midcourt.

“It was a little reminiscent of the first time we played them,” Vidovic said. “We just had to stick with it. Even when things weren’t going well, we just said, ‘Stay the course and keep doing what you’re doing.’ The girls earned this. They deserve to be here right now.”

Six-foot-1 sophomore rightside Camryn Hannah added 6 kills and Green had 13 digs for Marist.

Six-foot senior outside hitter Rocky Perinar led Minooka with 12 kills and Papesh added 11, but Minooka hit just .071 as a team with 23 hitting errors. Sophomore setter Zoey Seput had 26 assists and senior libero Taylor Baranski dug 20 balls.

“We just had too many unforced errors, too many hitting errors … way too many hitting errors,” said Minooka coach Carrie Prosek. “We rely on our offense and our defense has always been great, but you can’t make that many hitting errors in the game.

“We probably gave them a good 15 points on us hitting the ball out … not just out, way out,” she said.

In the third-place match, Crystal Lake Central (33-4) outlasted St. Charles North 25-19, 9-25, 25-23.

Five-foot-11 senior outside hitter Emily Kelly led the Tigers with 9 kills, while 6-foot senior opposite Megan Kelly (16 assists), 6-foot sophomore outside Camryn Hausler and 6-1 junior middle blocker Paige Hulata each had 6 kills.    

St. Charles North (36-5) got 9 kills and 6 assists from 5-10 senior outside hitter Amanda Parker, 8 kills and 6 assists from 5-11 junior setter/rightside Katie Lanz, and 7 kills and 12 digs from 6-foot senior outside hitter Abby Graham.  

Class 3A

Resurrection almost lived up to its name in the Class 3A championship match, picking itself off the floor after dropping a one-sided first set to heavily-favored Belleville Althoff. But the Crusaders used a 5-0 run to wipe out a 19-16 deficit and beat the Bandits 25-16, 25-23.

It marked Althoff’s first state championship in 11 trips to the state finals. The Crusaders’ best previous finish was second place in Class AA in 1999 under former coach Kathy Wuller.

“It means everything, but outside of these girls I wanted to win this for (Wuller), who’s been such a role model for me,” said Althoff coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich, who played for Wuller from 2000-2003.

“I know I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” Thomas-Dietrich added. “I dedicate my medal to her.”

Althoff wasted little time winning the first set, grabbing leads of 10-4, 14-7 and 20-13. A kill by Resurrection’s Christina Gatta got the Bandits within 21-15, but that was as close as the Chicagoans would get.

“It definitely helped to jumpstart and dominate right away,” said Althoff’s 6-foot-1 senior setter Louise Comerford. “That helped our confidence and momentum to move onto the next set.”

But Resurrection had other plans. The Bandits rallied from an early 9-5 deficit to to take a 19-16 lead on two kills by New Mexico State recruit Brittany Welch and another by 5-11 senior middle hitter Jordyn Sprunk.  

“We knew (Welch), being a Division I athlete, would be capable of coming out and taking over the game, which she did,” Thomas-Dietrich said. “She put the pressure on us in the second set and their defense was very scrappy.”

But Althoff answered with 5 unanswered points and finally won on a smash down the line by 5-9 junior outside hitter Grace Strieker.

Six-foot-1 sophomore middle hitter Karinna Gall led Althoff (41-1) with 8 kills, 5-10 senior rightside Addie Burris had 7 kills, and Comerford (26 assists), 5-10 sophomore Katie Wemhoener (10 digs), Strieker and 5-10 senior middle Leighten Kaiser each had 4 kills.

Welch, a 5-9 senior outside hitter, led Resurrection with 9 kills and 11 digs. Five-foot-10 sophomore outside hitter Caitlin Coughlin added 6 kills, Sprunk had 5 kills and Gatta had 22 assists.

In the third-place match, after falling behind 11-6 early in the third set, Normal U-High (29-11) closed the match on a 19-8 run to defeat (Arlington Heights) St. Viator, 25-21, 19-25, 25-19.

Five-foot-8 sophomore setter/rightside Isabel Schaefbauer and 6-foot senior middle hitter Addy Loefler led the Pioneers with 11 kills each. Schaefbauer added 14 assists. Five-foot-11 senior outside hitter Catherine Hickey paced the Lions (29-13) with 15 kills and 5-6 senior setter Michaela Mueller had 29 assists and 11 digs.

Class 2A

In the Class 2A championship game, Champaign St. Thomas More (39-3) needed a little divine intervention to win the first state championship in that school’s history.

With the score tied at 21-21 in the third set against Quincy Notre Dame, St. Thomas More’s All-American Mica Allison was just trying to get a ball over when fate intervened.

The ball rode the net halfway across the court and gently fell on Notre Dame’s side of the court. The Raiders never scored again as the Sabres closed on a 4-0 run to win 18-25, 25-19, 25-21.

“We practice that, and we do it very well,” St. Thomas More coach Stan Bergman quipped. “I don’t know what to say about it. When it went over, I said, ‘Oh my gosh. Thank you, Lord.’”

Allison, a 6-1 senior All-American headed to Auburn in the fall, finished with 12 kills, 12 assists and 5 digs. But none of her kills were as big as the last one.  

“I was trying to get the ball over,” she said. “I was very scared. It seemed like it stayed on the tape forever. I said, “Please go over.” When it did, I thought, “This is ours. We got this.”

Notre Dame (33-9) dominated the first set, taking a 21-9 lead behind 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Sydney Hummert and a flurry of Sabre hitting errors. St. Thomas More broke an 8-8 in the second game with a 13-7 run setting up the decisive third game.

St. Thomas More eased to a 17-13 in Game 3, but Notre Dame answered with an 8-4 run capped by a Hummert smash. That’s when the volleyball powers smiled on Allison and St. Thomas More.

“We played pretty well at times today, and other times when we needed a big play it seemed like the ball bounced the other way,” said Notre Dame coach Rich Meyer. “They got a size mismatch on us from time to time and that’s part of it.”

Six-foot sophomore middle hitter Allie Trame had 10 kills for the Sabres, who also got 22 assists from 5-5 senior Hayes Murray, 9 kills from 6-foot senior middle hitter Lucy Lux-Rulon and 14 digs from 5-4 junior lilbero Haley Elam.

Hummert led Notre Dame with 12 kills, and Meredith Siebers, Monica Brown and Taylor Keck each had 4 kills. Sophomore setter Maddie Peters added 16 assists and Hannah Peters had 12 digs.

In the third-place match, Newton (32-8) had to work overtime to defeat Harvest Christian 20-25, 29-27, 25-22. The Eagles fought off three match points to win Game 2 and rallied from a 19-16 deficit to win the third set.

Five-foot-9 senior outside hitter Abby Frohning led Newton with 12 kills, 11 assists and 11 digs, while 5-7 senior outside hitter Amanda Cassidy had 17 kills and 16 digs for Harvest Christian (29-13).

Class 1A

In the Class 1A title match, Payson Seymour’s Josie Stanford bounced back from a quiet performance in Friday’s semifinal to lead the Lady Indians to a 25-12, 27-25 victory over Stewardson-Strasburg.

Stanford, a 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker, had 13 kills, 3 digs and a block for Payson-Seymour (41-1).

“I think that yesterday there were a lot of nerves … I had nerves,” Stanford said. “I was just overthinking everything. It’s a good thing that Camryn (Flesner) and everyone was there to pick me up.

“Today, I knew from beginning when I woke up this morning that will it was going to be a good day,” she added.

The Lady Indians built an early 15-5 lead in the first set against the Comets and were never threatened. However, Stewardson-Strasburg (34-7) turned the tables on Payson Seymour in the second set and grabbed an early 10-4 lead.

Payson Seymour used a 14-5 run take a by two Stanford kills to take an 18-15 lead, but the Comets countered and finally earned a set point at 25-24 on a block by Maria Gentry and Kasey Bean.

However, the Lady Indians secured the first state championship in school history on two kills by 5-10 senior outside hitter Hylee Schmiedeskamp (10 kills) and another kill by Stanford.

“I think we stayed within ourselves really well today,” Stanford said. “We didn’t let the pressure or the thought of the outcome get in our way. Does this feel like I thought it would? It feels better. So much better.”

Cassie Eidson had 26 assists and Melina Tedrow added 16 digs for Payson Seymour. Five-foot-11 junior outside hitter Megan Schlechte, who set a state record with 29 kills in Stewardson-Strasburg’s semifinal win, had 6 kills Saturday.

“Payson Seymour is the fastest team we’ve played this season,” Comets coach Ronda Schlechte said. “They were able to get around our block and we couldn’t get around them. Our defense was never in the right spot. They were very smart as far as where they placed their balls.”

In the third-place match, 5-8 junior outside hitter McKenzie Damon had 11 kills and 6 digs and 5-4 junior setter Marissa Kelsey added 27 assists and 9 digs as Durand (35-2-1) turned back Newark 25-19, 25-19. Five-foot-11 freshman Madi Malone led Newark (34-5) with 12 kills.

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