Marist knocks off defending national champs

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




 Photo by Jeff Vorva

 Marist’s Abby Callahan jumps for joy after the final play in Friday’s two-set victory over Mother McAuley Friday night in Class 4A supersectional play. 


Whenever the Marist and Mother McAuley volleyball teams play each other, the intensity seems to always reach the boiling point.

But for the first time in the history of the neighborhood rivalry, a bid to the state tournament was on the line.

And those fans who had to be turned away because McAuley’s gym was already holding approximately 2,500 fans…well…they probably reached their boiling point, too.

Anyway, the two state powers went at it and the two fan sections were screaming as if it were a rock concert and in the end, Marist pulled off a 25-21, 25-16 victory over the defending national champions Friday night in the Class 4A Mother McAuley Supersectional in Chicago.

The RedHawks (39-1) made it to state for the second time in school history (the first coming in 2011) and avenged its only blemish on the season as the RedHawks’ dropped a 25-20, 25-17 decision to the Mighty Macs on Sept. 12. It was the first time Marist beat McAuley since Sept. 29, 2012 – a seven-match losing skid.

“We were prepared for everything we were going to see,” RedHawks coach Jordan Vidovic said. “We had a very specific game plan and executed it as perfectly as we possibly could. The seniors on our side – and this goes way deeper than this season – were not going to lose this match.’’

“I’ve been going to Marist for four years and this was the first win we were able to pull out,” said senior Savannah Thompson. “This being the road to state, it was pretty special.’’

The RedHawks challenge Crystal Lake Central (33-3), a team that had to battle its way out of a tough McHenry County volleyball area that also features Huntley, Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove.

Playing in a large arena that will not be half filled will be a different dynamic than Friday with a packed house that was loud and rocking the while match.

“It’s not going to be a walk in the park,” Thompson said. “But this experience prepared us for what’s coming up next.’’

Maggie Meyer led the RedHawks to state with 13 kills and Thompson added 12. Setter Molly Murrihy had 33 assists and Grace Green had 14 digs.

Charley Niego, who closes out an illustrious career with the Mighty Macs, had nine kills and nine digs while Moira Mixan came up with six kills and six digs while Nancy Kane added 19 assists.

“This stung a lot,” said Niego. “But overall my career, this has been a great experience winning the state and national championships last year. I’m excited for my next four years at Notre Dame but I will always be cheering on the Macs.’’

McAuley finished 35-5 and despite the departure of Niego, had enough sophomores and juniors go through the wars this year to stay strong in the next two seasons.

Even though it resulted in a loss, coach Jen DeJarld hopes her team will remember this match was able to generate this type of excitement and atmosphere.

“It’s a game they will always remember,” DeJarld said. “The seniors were able to play their last game here. It’s hard but when they get to college and tell their new teammates they played in front of 2,500 fans, they might not believe them.’’

The area had six teams win regionals and make it to sectionals.

In Class 3A, St. Laurence made it to the Brooks’ Sectional final after beating Evergreen Park, 25-17, 25-15 on Oct. 30 but suffered a 22-25, 25-15, 25-7 loss to Tinley Park in the championship on Nov. 1. It is the first year the Burbank school is opened to girls and this was the first girls team in school history to win a regional.

In Class 2A, Chicago Christian was a state hopeful, but dropped a 22-25, 25-19, 25-20 nailbiter to Aurora Christian in the Knights’ own sectional on Nov. 1.

In Class 4A, Sandburg was eliminated by Marian Catholic 25-21, 25-21 in the Marist Sectional on Oct. 30.