Savannah Thompson had 8 kills, 2 aces and a block to lead Illprepvb.com’s No. 3-ranked Marist past the Hornets 25-11, 25-20 Monday in Darien.
Thompson, a 5-foot-10 senior and two-year starter who is committed to Central Michigan, dominated the first set as the RedHawks raced to a 21-8 lead.
“Honestly, this is a group of girls who really have a lot of drive and focus,” Thompson said. “I see it every day in practice. It’s awesome going into the gym every day with girls who are working toward the same goal. That’s something that really shows on the court.”
Thompson said the RedHawks are using last year’s 25-20, 25-22 sectional final loss to eventual national champion Mother McAuley as motivation.
“Toward end of last year, we really started to see where we could take this team,” she said. “If anything, that’s what’s really pushing us this year … knowing that we were so close last year. It might be the mental game that takes us where we want to go.
“The end was rough last year, but the few games we had going up to the last game showed us the potential we have is really through the roof.”
Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said Thompson’s toughness, athleticism and experience set her apart from a lot of players around the state.
“You saw her sit back there and make a couple of great digs in the back row,” he said. “She is starting to make things look a lot easier. That’s the sign of a really good player. They can make things look really easy and look smooth doing it.”
Thompson sat out Game 2 against Hinsdale South as Vidovic wants to take no chances with his star outside hitter.
“She was feeling it physically a little bit today with her arm,” he said. “We just want to be careful. But you can still see she brings the power and she’s somebody we can rely on all year for those little things.”
Marist’s 6-foot setter and three-year starter Molly Murrihy added 20 assists and 2 aces and showed why she is heading to Memphis in the fall.
“We have really high expectations, high hopes for her,” Vidovic said. “Physically with her size she can do lot. She sets from really high and is able to open up our hitters and make our hitters look better. That’s something we’re working pretty hard on.
“As we go and get some game experience, our offense will show a little bit more,” he added. “You didn’t really see it tonight. It’s something we think we can be really fast.”
On the other side of the court, Hinsdale South rookie coach Alison Balmer (known as Ali Rook during her playing days at Naperville North) was not unhappy with her team’s performance. The Hornets held their own in Game 2 and were within 17-15 before Marist eased away.
“Marist is a great team,” she said. “That’s a difficult team to open up against. Their setter is phenomenal. She runs the court really well. It’s nice to be able to run a 5-1. It speeds the game up a little bit.”
Hinsdale South got 3 kills apiece from sophomores Kaitlyn Hurka and Mia Lombardo, 6 assists from junior Abigail Mihalkanin, and 2 kills apiece from 6-1 senior Tierney Ward and junior Claire Zipsie.
“There are things to learn from it,” Balmer said. “The first game was a little rough. But we came back. There some things we definitely know we have to work on, improve upon. Overall, just take it with a grain of salt. Think about it for little bit and then it’s over.”