Mitchem, Ball State are NCAA tournament-bound; and more college odds & ends

Southeast Missouri State’s Laney Malloy (left) and Kayla Closset will be packing their bags for the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships this week.

Bolingbrook graduate and Sports Performance alumna Natalie Mitchem and her Ball State University teammates are headed to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championships after defeating Bowling Green to win the Mid-American Conference championship.

The 6-2 junior opposite had 11 kills, 3 blocks and 4 digs in the Cardinals’ 25-23, 29-31, 25-16, 21-25, 15-7 victory over the No. 2-seeded Falcons. Overall, Mitchem, an all-MAC first-team selection, led the Ball State with 343 kills.

Ball State (29-3) will travel to Louisville, Kentucky, to take on Michigan (18-11) in the opening round of the NCAA Division I tournament at 4:00 p.m. Friday.  Ball State will be making its 10th appearance in the tournament
Katie Kidwell, a 6-0 senior from Watseka and Impulse VBC, is the lone Illinois player on the Bowling Green roster.  


Ferris State (Big Rapids, Michigan) senior outside hitter Katie O’Connell, a Mother McAuley graduate and Michio Chicago VBA alumna, was named to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference all-conference first team.

O’Connell led the Bulldogs with 363 kills, 28 assists, 25 aces, 367 digs and 60 blocks this season. She had 25 kills in Ferris State’s 21-25, 25-21, 15-25, 25-19, 16-14 victory over No. 1 seed Michigan Tech in the GLIAC championship game.  

Ferris State, which won the GLIAC South Division regular-season title at 12-2 and is 25-4 overall, is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Midwest Region and will play Rockhurst at 4:00 p.m. Thursday at Ferris State in Big Rapids, Michigan.

Other local products on the Ferris State roster are 5-10 freshman Tatum Outlaw (Rochester/Illini Elite VBC), 6-1 senior middle hitter Samantha Hermann (Minooka/UNO VBC), 5-9 freshman outside hitter Connie Lebel (Mother McAuley/Michio Chicago VBA) and 5-6 freshman libero Leah Bylut (Shepard/Sports Performance VBC).


Anna Jonynas, a Sandburg graduate, 1st Alliance VBC alumna and fifth-year senior at Michigan Technological University, was named to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference all-conference first team.

Jonyas, a chemical engineering major, led the Huskies to a 24-6 record and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with 430 kills, 44 aces, 344 digs and 25 blocks. Michigan Tech lost in the tournament finals to Ferris State, 21-25, 25-21, 15-25, 25-19, 16-14.

Michigan Tech will make its fourth straight and 12th all-time appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament after its was named to the 64-team field last week. Tech is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and will play No. 7 Wayne State (Michigan) at 11:00 a.m. Thursday at top-seeded Ferris State.


Sarah Kuchcik, a 5-9 junior from Naperville North and a Sports Performance VBC alumna, is a national champion after the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire women’s volleyball team defeated Calvin University, 25-22, 25-23, 25-21, to win the 2021 NCAA DIII National Championship.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire was competing in its first ever NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship. The Blugolds finished 35-3 overall. Kuchcik, who calls West Aurora, Wisconsin and SPVB alumna Lauren Carlini her sports idol, is a digital marketing major.


Sports Performance alumnae Laney Malloy (St. Francis) and Kayla Closset (Naperville Central) and Sky High VBC alumna Ally Dion (Huntley) are Ohio Valley Conference tournament championships after Southeast Missouri State defeated Morehead State, 25-22, 25-23, 19-25, 15-25,15-13.

Malloy, a 6-0 senior who was named the 2021 Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, had 21 kills in the championship match and now has 497 on the year. Dion, a 5-10 senior defensive specialist, added 16 digs in the tournament finale.

Also on the Southeast Missouri State roster is 5-11 sophomore middle blocker Lexi Smith (Freeburg/STL High Performance VBC).  

Southeast Missouri State  (26-7) will travel to Lexington, Kentucky, to face No. 7 Kentucky (24-4), the 2020 NCAA Volleyball National Champions, in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship at 6:30 p.m. Friday.


Plainfield Central graduate and Sports Performance alumna Kerrigan Candra had 8 kills and 3 aces as Thomas Jefferson University defeated Bloomfield, 25-15, 25-23, 25-23, to win the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference championship.

The 5-11 freshman outside hitter finished the regular season as Thomas Jefferson’s third-leading attacker with 213 kills. The Rams will play Stonehill at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday in the NCAA Division II Women’s Volleyball Championships in Springfield, Massachusetts.


Dominique Browder, a 6-0 outside hitter, Plainfield East graduate and Sports Performance alumna, and her Fairfield University teammates won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, defeating Rider, 25-11, 25-18, 25-21.

Fairfield (24-8) will play UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships at 9:00 p.m. (CDT) in Los Angeles.


Mother McAuley graduate, Michio Chicago VBA alumna and 5-6 libero Emma Reilly, a graduate student at Appalachian State University, was named Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference.  

Reilly totaled 458 digs on the season, fourth most in the conference. She reached double figures in digs in 25 of 28 contests this season, including nine matches with 20 or more digs. Reilly had 18 digs in the Mountaineers’ 25-15, 25-23, 27-25 loss to Louisiana in the conference tournament.


University of Missouri-St. Louis’ 5-8 setter Kaileen Herman, a senior from Andrew and a Michio Chicago VBA alumna, was named First Team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference.

Herman and the Tritons (24-8) will play Lewis University in the first round of the NCAA Division II Women’s Volleyball Championships at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.


Savannah Thompson, a 5-10 senior outside hitter from Marist and a Michio Chicago VBA alumna, recorded her 1,000th career kill for Central Michigan University this fall and was named First Team All-Mid-American Conference.


Naperville North graduate and Sports Performance VBC alumna Sarah Kushner, a 5-10 junior outside hitter, led the Missouri Valley Conference with 18 double-doubles for Illinois State University this fall.

Kushner, the Redbirds’ second-leading attacker, had 361 kills and 353 digs during the regular season.

Illinois State (19-13) will make its 17th NCAA tournament appearance on Thursday, December 2, when it faces sixth-seeded Purdue in the first round in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Redbirds earned the MVC’s automatic bid by defeating Loyola in the conference championship game last Saturday.


Kaleigh Ritter, a 5-7 freshman setter at St. Xavier University from Lincoln-Way East and a Michio Chicago VBA alumna, was named the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and First Team All-CCAC.


Other Sports Performance alumna who will be participating in the NCAA Division I tournament this week are: Zayna Meyer (Wheaton-Warrenville South), BYU; Mikaila Dowd (Metea Valley), Georgia Tech; Jessica D’Ambrose (Addison Trail), Illinois State; and Sara Nielsen (Benet), Kansas.

Also, Taylor Landfair (Plainfield Central), Minnesota; Laura Katarzynski (West Chicago), Northern Colorado; Elizabeth LaBue (Wheaton North) and Jaime Samojedny (Metea Valley), Rice; Emily Wilson (Joliet Catholic Academy), San Diego; and Eirini Glynou (Stagg), South Alabama.


Mother McAuley graduate and San Diego defensive specialist Anna Jaworowski

Anna Jaworowski, a 5-8 freshman defensive specialist from Mother McAuley and a Michio Chicago VBA alumna, will accompany her University of San Diego teammates to Austin, Texas, where they will play Rice in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament at 2:00 p.m. Thursday.

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