Maybe it was too easy.
Marist, ranked No. 3 in illprepvb.com’s preseason rankings, bounced back from an opening-game loss to shock the state’s No. 1-ranked team 20-25, 25-15, 25-18.
Memphis-bound Molly Murrihy led the way with 39 assists and 3 blocks, Savannah Thompson had 16 kills and 10 digs, and 6-foot-1 sophomore rightside hitter Camryn Jordan added 13 kills and 3 blocks as Marist improved to 6-0.
“Minooka was one of the best teams we could have ever asked to play (in the championship match),” Murrihy said. “We were so excited for this game. We knew it would be competitive. We’re really happy with the way it turned out.”
Minooka (5-1) broke a 6-6 tie in the first game with a 13-7 run and won on a kill by Allison Papesh. But the RedHawks countered with a 16-7 run to break a 4-4 tie in the second set, fueled by the outstanding play of 6-foot-1 sophomore rightside Camryn Hannah.
“Camryn played amazing,” Murrihy said. “She was phenomenal.”
Murrihy said the RedHawks were not discouraged by the first-set loss.
“We just really wanted it,” Murrihy said. “We realized we were really close in the first game and told ourselves we can take the second and third sets. We have been working really hard practice, pushing ourselves. We knew that this (Minooka) was a team that we could take on.”
Marist picked up where it left off at the end of the second set, building an 18-12 advantage in the third on a kill by Maggie Meyer. A Papesh kill got the Indians to within 21-17, but Mattie McCabe ended the drama with a tool off the block at 24-18.
“Everyone was asking me to set them,” Murrihy said. “They all wanted to be part of it. They all wanted to contribute.”
Grace Green had 16 digs for Marist.
“We felt like we played well the first game, it just took us until the second to get used to their pace that they bring on the swings,” Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said. “It’s something we know is there, but when you don’t play it for four matches it takes a while to adjust on defense.
“We were ready for the first game, there were just a couple of lose points,” he added. “In the second game, we started making saves on defense and just kept ball alive. We started putting more pressure on them. We really stepped it up to shrink the court on them.”
Papesh led Minooka (5-1) with 15 kills, Raquel Perinar added 12 kills, sophomore Zoey Seput contributed 30 assists and Taylor Baranski had 18 digs.
“I don’t like to lose, the girls don’t like to lose, but this is a good learning experience,” Minooka coach Carrie Prosek said. “We almost played a little scared in the second game. We couldn’t get serves in at crunch time, our passing was not great. Our hitters started playing scared.
“It’s just a mental thing,” the coach added. “I know that they’re not happy. I don’t think they want to do that again. It’s kind of good now. Now we know what we need to work on the rest of the year.”
Lincoln-Way Central (5-1) won the Silver Division, defeating Lockport 25-19, 23-25, 25-18. Kylie Kulinski led the Knights with 11 kills, Cassidy Wyman added 8 kills and 14 assists, Hannah Stacy had 6 kills and Lucy Chesla had 11 digs.
“We don’t have any big go-to hitters,” Lincoln-Way Central coach Mary Brown said. “We have to be smart. We’re not going to beat anybody with brawn. It’s got a be all brains. Hart’s our goal. To be to be a hustle team, to be a scrappy team.”
Lockport (4-2), which beat Lemont 26-24, 23-25, 25-13 in the Silver semifinals, got 8 kills from JoDee Kovanda, 7 kills from Morgan Schmutzler, 14 assists from Hannah Pacheco and 4 aces from Shae O’Neil.
“We found the energy in the second set,” Lockport coach Nick Mraz said. “They came out excited. But then we ended up hitting negative in the third set. When you can’t put the ball down on the court … that killed us, and we got stuck in some rotations because of it.”