One is a Little Giant who has become a recognizable figure on Illinois high school volleyball’s grandest stage. Two other south suburban entries will be looking to carve their own niches Friday and Saturday at the IHSA state tournament.
Chicago Christian is seeking to win its second straight state championship and gunning for its third straight appearance in the Class 2A state title match. Since coach Jim Garcia took over in 2008, the Knights have posted a 111-46 record and have won two state trophies (1st in 2010, 2nd in 2009).
Chicago Heights Marian Catholic returns to the big dance for the first time since falling in the Class AA quarterfinals in 2002 and returning home empty-handed. The Spartans are guaranteed of adding a trophy to the school collection this time as one of four finalists in Class 3A. The only remaining question is how Ryan Summers' first year as their coach will be remembered.
And Chicago Marist, a burgeoning power for much of the last decade under coach Natalie Holder, reached the pinnacle of the Class 4A playoffs by rallying past Lyons Township at the Hinsdale South Supersectional. And, now that the RedHawks are in the Final Four for the first time, they have their sights set on cementing in place the cornerstone block of a new South Side dynasty.
All matches will be played at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena. Following is a capsule summary of what’s in store for three south suburban hopefuls:
Friday’s semifinals: Decatur St. Teresa (35-3) vs. Quincy Notre Dame (27-9), noon; Chicago Christian (22-18) vs. Breese Central (32-8), 1:30 p.m. (approx.).
Saturday’s medal matches: Third place, 12:25 p.m.; championship, 1:55 p.m. (approx).
Outlook: Chicago Christian went 1-5 in matches against Class 3A and 4A state qualifiers during the regular season, but has reeled off five straight post-season victories since dropping back down to its own level and is primed to capture its second straight Class 2A title.
The Knights’ Emily Lindemulder (257 kills, 82 blocks), Becky DeRuiter (256 kills, 105 blocks) and Maggie Kamp (233 kills, 169 digs) are mainstays up front. Emily Workman (977 assists) is the quarterback on the floor. When the ball goes through her, good things happen for Chicago Christian.
Breese Central played up at times, too, during the regular season and came out all the better despite suffering losses to the likes of Belleville Althoff, Breese Mater Dei and St. Louis Incarnate Word.
The Cougars’ top gun is Taylor Voss, a 6-foot senior middle hitter. She boasts team-leading totals of 334 kills, 156 blocks and 29 service aces.
Ron Kremer’s predicted order of finish: 1. Breese Central, 2. Decatur St. Teresa, 3. Chicago Christian, 4. Quincy Notre Dame.
Friday’s semifinals: Breese Mater Dei (37-3) vs. Wheaton St. Francis (34-6), 4:30 p.m.; Woodstock Marian (34-6) vs. Chicago Heights Marian Catholic (24-16), 6 p.m. (approx.).
Saturday’s medal matches: Third place, 4 p.m., championship 5:30 p.m. (approx).
Outlook: Chicago Heights Marian Catholic has ripped off victories in 12 of its last 13 matches, including a straight-sets sweep of Chicago Payton (25-18, 25-13) at the Rich East Supersectional. Sophomore outside hitter Amber Clay and freshman middle hitter Kelsey Clark have led the Spartans’ surge. Clay has racked up a team-leading total of 286 kills. Clark has to her credit 169 kills and 120 blocks.
Woodstock Marian placed third in the Class 3A state tournament last season and looks to climb up the podium ladder. Junior outside hitter Tara Blake is the Hurricanes’ most powerful force. She has 262 kills. Senior setter Abby Gilleland (781 assists) makes it a habit to set Blake in big moments.
Ron Kremer’s predicted order of finish: 1. Wheaton St. Francis, 2. Woodstock Marian, 3. Breese Mater Dei, 4. Chicago Heights Marian Catholic.
Friday’s semifinals: Benet Academy (37-3) vs. St. Charles East (34-6), 7:30 p.m.; Cary-Grove (24-4) vs. Marist (30-5), 9 p.m. (approx).
Saturday’s medal matches: Third place, 7:25 p.m., championship, 8:55 p.m.
Outlook: Marist has coach Natalie Holder calling the shots on the sideline and her daughter, Ashley, directing the action on the floor. Ashley Holder is a 5-8 senior setter. She leads the RedHawks with 1,052 assists. She also has 428 digs and 31 service aces. Mallory Salis (385 kills) and Kelly Marcinek (317 kills) provide a strong 1-2 punch at the net. Ashley Holder and Mallory Salis were featured when the Nike Tournament of Champions released its all-tournament team earlier this week.
Cary-Grove placed second in the Class 4A state tournament a year ago and returns after going 22-2 vs. in-state competition. The Trojans dropped matches to Huntley and Wheaton St. Francis during regular-season play. Six-footer Ashley Rosch is Cary-Grove’s top all-around player. She gets it done on offense (331 kills) and defense (288 digs). Jess Bartczyszyn enters with 721 assists under her belt.
Ron Kremer’s predicted order of finish: 1. Chicago Marist, 2. Benet Academy, 3. St. Charles East, 4. Cary-Grove.