Photo by Jeff Vorva
Marist’s volleyball team was cheering all day Saturday after winning the ASICS Challenge.
The ASICS Challenge brings in 24 girls volleyball teams from across the country.
But this year, it could have been renamed the ESCC Challenge.
Three members of the East Suburban Catholic Conference gobbled up spots in the final four of the tournament along with Assumption of Kentucky, which was ranked first in the nation in a Sept. 20 poll by USA Today and second in its Sept. 27 poll.
When the smoke cleared, it was fourth-seeded Marist which won its first ASICS title after an 18-25, 25-13, 26-24 victory over ESCC rival Joliet Catholic Academy Saturday at Mother McAuley High School. The RedHawks, which improved to 23-1 with the victory, were down 24-20 in the final set and came back to score six straight against the 10th-seeded Angels for the title. The RedHawks also trailed 11-4 at one point in that deciding set.
The two powers were scheduled to face each other again Tuesday night in Joliet.
Top-seeded Assumption beat the ESCC’s Marian Catholic 25-21, 25-21 in the third-place game.
“You probably wouldn’t expect the conference having three teams in the final four ahead of time with all the teams that are here,” Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said. “This says a lot about our conference. That doesn’t even include a team like Benet and other big-time teams who are not in this tournament.
“The fact that we play each other throughout the season gives us the type of preparation for these kind of matches that maybe some of the other conferences don’t.’’
Savannah Thompson, who made the all-tournament team, had 15 kills and 18 digs against Marian while Maggie Meyer had 19 kills, Grace Green came up with 18 digs and Molly Murrihy had 42 assists and four blocks. Katie Canavan put on a serving show with well-timed aces in the final set.
The championship showdown was set up by an even more impressive accomplishment when the RedHawks stunned Assumption, 25-16, 25-20 in the semifinals. Assumption won the ASICS tournament 13 times.
Marist is the third team from Illinois to claim the title. McAuley won it five times including last year and Cary-Grove won it in 2010.
McAuley finished fifth after being upset by Joliet Catholic, 25-18, 25-22 in the quarterfinals. Charley
Niego was named to the all-tournament team.
Sandburg, which was seeded 21st, claimed a pool victory over 12th-seeded Downers Grove North and finished as the silver consolation champion – 13th.
Teams were represented from Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Wisconsin, Utah, California and Florida.