Girls’ volleyball in the US doesn’t get any better than at the Illinois state finals, held every November at the Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal, and this year brought four new champions to the list of state title winners:
- Class 1A — Payson Seymour H.S. from Payson, coach Teresa Loos-Tedrow
- Class 2A — The H.S. of St. Thomas More from Champaign, coach Stan Bergman
- Class 3A — Althoff Catholic H.S. from Belleville, coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich
- Class 4A — Marist H.S. from Chicago, coach Jordan Vidovic
The titles in all four classes mark the first for any of these schools winning the Illinois High School Association title in the sport and, for Payson Seymour in 1A, in any sport at all.
— IHSA State (@IHSAState) November 12, 2017
Class 1A: Payson Seymour d. Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg, 25-12, 27-25
The final match in class 1A was a nail-biter, to be sure, at least in the second set. But Hylee Schmiedeskamp’s kill, off a set from Cassie Eidson, to tie the game at 25 pushed the Indians forward.
“I’m not going to lie. I honestly didn’t know what point it was,” sports writer David Adam quoted her as saying in the Herald-Whig.
That’s understandable, considering she had 10 kills in the final match and a team-leading .600 hitting percentage. Before the final and semifinal, the sophomore had 122 kills on the season, and she would add one more on the last play, this time off a set from Melina Tedrow, to propel her team to a 27-25 win in the second set, which followed their 25-12 win in the first.
“(After the final point), I turned around and they were all on the ground, and I was like, ‘Oh, I guess that means we won.’ So I joined them.”
Her kill to tie the game at 25 was, honestly, a beautiful thing to watch, down the line and into the corner.
“I remember that point, because Hylee made a brilliant play,” coach Teresa Loos-Tedrow told the Herald-Whig. “She got the ball into the corner, and that was amazing.”
The team from Stewardson-Strasburg, in a coop with Windsor High School, is coached by Ronda Schlechte.
Class 2A: St Thomas More d. Notre Dame (Quincy), 18-25, 25-19, 25-21
Nearly all season long, the girls’ volleyball team from the High School of St Thomas More in Champaign has been the best in the area, writes the News-Gazette. And the Sabers are “now the best Class 2A team in the state.”
“I’m very happy,” the paper quoted STM coach Stan Bergman as saying. “It’s very special. It’s really exhilarating. I can’t even describe it. It’s great.”
In addition to this being the first girls’ volleyball title for STM, it was also the first volleyball state championship brought back to any high school in Champaign County, our analysis confirms. A state series in volleyball became part of IHSA’s offerings in 1974-75, a few years after Title IX became law.
What a season this one was!
“The Sabers closed the season on a 13-match win streak,” the News-Gazette reported. “After rattling off a 23-match win streak during the season, STM recovered after its last loss this season, a two-set thriller against Payson Seymour on October 14, to go on an epic postseason run.”
“It really doesn’t feel real,” the paper quoted STM senior Hayes Murray as saying. “But it’s awesome.”
Class 3A: Althoff (Belleville) d. Resurrection (Chicago), 25-16, 25-23
Speaking of dream seasons, the state’s 3A champion, Althoff High School in Belleville, had only one loss all year: to Belleville West on September 26 in a three-set thriller. They finish the season 41-1 and at the top of class 3A.
Left-handed setter Louise Comerford, who is headed to Miami of Ohio next year, had 26 assists in the final match, including match point, which she set for Grace Strieker, who punched it definitively up the line for the final kill in a match that showed a relentless spirit of determination from both teams.
“It was an unbelievable moment,” the Belleville News-Democrat quoted Comerford as saying after the match. “I was speechless. I just dropped to my knees in tears. We knew early on this season that we had the potential to get here and do this. To have it become a reality after all the hard work we put in is a dream come true.”
“I couldn’t be any more proud [of] this volleyball team,” the paper quoted Althoff coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich as saying. “I wanted this for them, and I wanted this for our volleyball program. But I also really wanted this for my aunt Kathy (Wuller) because I know what it means to her and how long she’s waited for this to happen. She has been a huge part of the Althoff program for a long time and a tremendous role model to me. I wouldn’t be where I am without her guidance.”
Class 4A: Marist (Chicago) d. Minooka, 22-25, 25-22, 25-15
Two of the best teams in the state—indeed, in the nation, featuring several Division I recruits—met at Redbird Arena late into Saturday night to give Marist its first state championship in girls’ volleyball. If Minooka had won, it would have also been that school’s first title in girls’ volleyball, but with perennial national contenders in the state, class 4A is a tough nut to crack.
The Redhawks of Marist established themselves early in the season as a team worthy of national rankings—by defeating the Indians of Minooka. The Indians had suffered an early-season loss last year to eventual national champion Mother McAuley, and according to a report in The Herald-News, they were determined not to let their season fall short again.
Volleyball fans in the state were hoping for a rematch of that Redhawk win early in the season, and that’s exactly what they got. The match didn’t disappoint, as the two teams met in Normal for the state’s final match this season. Marist was 40-1 going in, and Minooka was 39-2.
Minooka is coached by Carrie Prosek, Marist by Jordan Vidovic.