Screeching Eagles overcome jitters to win regional
Despite Mt. Assisi having a core of four seniors who have played together for three years on the varsity level, coach Karen Van Assen admitted that her Screeching Eagles were feeling some jitters as postseason play began last week.
Those jitters were immediately evident when Mt. Assisi dropped the first game of last Tuesday’s semifinal match against Momence in the Class 2A Wilmington Regional. But true to their performance throughout the season, the Eagles rebounded to win the final two games and advance to Thursday’s championship match.
There, Mt. Assisi continued to shine as it beat the host school 26-24, 25-19 to collect its first regional title since 2008. The Eagles (19-18) met Fieldcrest this past Tuesday in an El Paso Sectional semifinal match. Seneca and Watseka squared off in the other semi.
Considering how things began for her squad in the regional round, Van Assen was simply glad to have Mt. Assisi still standing this week.
“I think the girls were a little nervous and a little shell-shocked, and they lost the first game [to Momence because of it],” she said. “We had felt that way before. We didn’t play the way we wanted to play.
“It was at that moment that I told the girls that this is not the way they wanted their season to end. I said, ‘You’re the No. 1 seed, and you have to prove to everybody why you earned that seed.’”
Mt. Assisi ultimately did exactly that with its 23-25, 25-18, 25-15 triumph, which was made possible by strong contributions from Kelly Magliano and Anna Broadhurst, both of whom put down 10 kills versus Momence. Broadhurst was also a major factor opposite Wilmington with 10 kills and 10 digs, as was MaryKate Wetzel (18 assists, 10 digs).
“By the time we reached the championship, the girls knew we could do this,” Van Assen said. “Once they won that first game [against Wilmington], I was confident they would win the second game.
“Winning that trophy was one of their goals. Now, we have to set new ones.”
If the Eagles were to win twice at El Paso, it would result in their first sectional title since 2005. Interestingly, Van Assen’s assistant, Megan O’Shea, was a member of that 2005 Mt. Assisi team and passed along some valuable insight to the current Eagles.
“Megan brought a book she and her mother had made from that season,” Van Assen said. “She said, ‘This is about you guys.’ The challenge to the girls was do they want to come home with that trophy?
“I reminded the team at practice that you can’t be afraid to make mistakes because you’ll just keep making them. You have to go out and do what you know you can do.
“I’ve seen Fieldcrest before, and I know we’re capable of winning. There’s 32 teams left in 2A, and we’re one of them. We want to make it to the Sweet 16, and then we’ll adjust our goals from there.”
One important detail that has allowed Mt. Assisi to be two steps away from a supersectional berth is its return to Class 2A. The team had been elevated to Class 3A, via the Illinois High School Association’s controversial multiplier system, since winning its last regional.
Under that system, a team has to go five years without winning a regional to descend to a lower class. It’s a system of which Van Assen is understandably not a fan, but with her senior quartet of Broadhurst, Wetzel, Magliano and Jessica Jakubowski around, it’s also a scenario she’s actually been thinking about for three years.
“I had the vision that if we could be in 2A, we could do some things,” Van Assen said. “Our four girls are starters [and] they’re hungry.
“They haven’t been around to experience the excitement advancing in a state playoff. It’s a whole different kind of excitement. It brings out intensity and fire in every athlete.”
Regardless of where the Eagles eventually got situated, however, Van Assen wasn’t going to be afraid to test her girls throughout the regular season.
“I try to make the schedule tough so that we can get through the state playoffs,” she said. “We’ve played in every situation and game to help them through. Winning a sectional title would be sweet.”
Broadhurst (178 kills, 48 blocks, 228 digs), Wetzel (602 assists), Magliano (298 kills, 70 blocks) and Jakubowski (278 digs) are Mt. Assisi’s statistical leaders through 37 matches.
With a 25-15, 25-16 victory over Homewood-Flossmoor in the championship match of last Thursday’s Class 4A TF North Regional, the Mighty Macs captured a state-best 32nd regional in what coach Jen DeJarld is hoping was just the first hurdle cleared in a long playoff run.
Ryann DeJarld (10 kills, 12 digs), Maggie Scanlon (nine kills, two aces), Courtney Joyce (32 assists) and Carla Cahill (10 digs) led Mother McAuley (35-2), which met Lincoln-Way North this past Tuesday in a Sandburg Sectional semifinal.
H-F challenged the Macs in the second set, jumping out to leads of 6-3 and 7-5 before McAuley embarked on a 7-2 run to move in front for keeps. Kelsey Clark fueled the surge with two of her seven kills.
Ryann DeJarld keyed the Macs’ success in Game 1 as she put down six of her kills. McAuley raced out to an 8-2 advantage and was never headed.
To punch their ticket to the regional final, the Macs downed Crete-Monee 25-8, 25-9 in a semifinal encounter. Joyce (20 assists), Clark (10 kills) and Cahill (10 digs) all had strong performances for McAuley last Tuesday.
Moving on as well to the sectional round were the Lady RedHawks, who bagged the championship of their own Class 4A regional by defeating Lincoln-Way East 25-18, 25-14 last Thursday. That win came on the heels of a 25-8, 25-7 semifinal romp past Oak Forest two days earlier.
Marist (27-9) also headed to the Sandburg Sectional, where it tangled with the host Lady Eagles this past Tuesday.
Courtney Reilly (nine kills), Ann Marie Stifter (five kills, six blocks), Molly Mayo (23 assists) and Carolyn Yerkes (14 digs) were the Lady RedHawks’ big guns in their title-clinching effort. Bridget Krasowski (six kills), Cameron Enright (four kills, six aces) and Shannon McKevitt (eight digs, three aces) led Marist to its rout of the Lady Bengals last Tuesday.
Behind Bridget Lebert’s team-high 11 kills, the Lady Eagles outlasted TF South 25-22, 17-25, 25-23 to claim the Class 4A Andrew Regional title last Thursday. Leah Lane added nine kills, Kelly McGovern had 11 digs and Sami Knight distributed 22 assists for Sandburg (30-7), which never trailed in the decisive third set.
The Lady Eagles fell behind the Lady Rebels 8-4 in Game 1, but then reeled off five consecutive points to inch in front. After some back-and-forth jockeying for position between the clubs, Sandburg assumed a 22-19 lead and then held on.
TF South controlled play in the second set, but Knight spearheaded the Lady Eagles’ race for the crown in the pivotal third game. The match ended on a Lady Rebels serving error.
Prior to beating TF South, Sandburg took down District 230 sister school and regional host Andrew, 25-9, 25-23, last Tuesday. Lane, Lebert and Kelly Finlay all had six kills to pace the Lady Eagles. Also lending a hand were Knight (20 assists), McGovern (six digs) and Alyssa Kijewski (three aces).
QUEEN OF PEACE
Another squad emerging unscathed from regional play was the Pride, who outlasted Chicago Agricultural Science 25-23, 23-25, 25-18 to collect the championship of their own Class 2A event. Queen of Peace defeated Gage Park 25-6, 25-12 in the semifinal round.
Michelle Frederick’s 13 kills, eight more from Samantha Stirn, and Becca Huerta’s 15 digs helped the Pride (9-25) subdue Ag Science and earn a berth in the Chicago Christian Sectional. Peace tangled with Brooks Prep this past Tuesday.
“We had a great week with two big wins,” Pride coach Megan Jones said. “It was a great week for Queen of Peace, and I’m very happy and proud of my girls. They’ve played hard and played a very competitive schedule, and it’s hard not to see your record reflect your hard work.
“Every win, especially these last two, have been earned, and the girls deserve every accolade they’ve been receiving for the hard work they’ve been putting in since July. They’ve had the fire and drive all season, and it continues to show.”
The Lady Mustangs captured the Class 3A Evergreen Park Regional title last Thursday night with a 25-22, 25-19 decision over University High.
Emma Przeslicke totaled seven kills and three blocks to boost Evergreen (14-17), which also received four kills and five blocks from Nicole Larkin. Sarah Klawitter added 16 digs for the Lady Mustangs.
To reach the final match, Evergreen defeated Hyde Park 25-4, 25-13 last Tuesday behind six kills and four aces from Sam Flores. Przeslicke chipped in five kills to further aid the Lady Mustangs’ semifinal cause.
The Lady Knights captured the Little Village Regional championship last Thursday by topping Bremen 25-12, 25-17. They reached the title match on the strength of a 25-5, 25-10 conquest of the host school last Tuesday.
Chicago Christian opened play in its own Class 2A sectional this past Tuesday versus Evergreen Park. The winner will meet either Queen of Peace or Brooks Prep tonight for the championship.
After defeating Washington 25-15, 25-22 in last Monday’s Andrew Regional quarterfinal, the Lady Bulldogs’ season was ended by TF South, which administered a 25-12, 25-11 setback on Tuesday.
Katelyn Sullivan had seven assists, Dana Wujcik six digs and Shannon Gardner three kills for Richards (20-9) in its final match.
Also seeing their 2013 campaign come to a close last Tuesday were the Lady Astros, who suffered a 25-19, 25-22 loss to Lincoln-Way East in a Marist Regional semifinal.
Chrystal McAlpin totaled seven kills and Bri Volpentesta had eight digs for Shepard (20-12).
The Lady Chargers blasted Thornton 25-4, 25-2 in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A Marian Catholic Regional last Monday, but they couldn’t handle Lincoln-Way Central on Tuesday. The Lady Knights dispatched Stagg 25-14, 25-19 in a semifinal encounter.
Homewood-Flossmoor knocked the Lady Spartans out of the postseason last Tuesday at the TF North Regional. The Lady Vikings triumphed by a 25-19, 25-20 score.