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IL girls' volleyball state champs: Lyons, Mater Dei, Chicago Christian, Heyworth

Class 1A: Heyworth d. Scales Mound, 22-25, 25-18, 26-24

The championship morning of Saturday, Nov. 13, started at the Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University, Normal, with Heyworth defeating Scales Mound in a scrappy, 3-set match.

Scales Mound took a 4-0 run in the first set to an 11-7 lead and never gave control of the score back. Nicole Winter, the coach’s niece, had 17 kills to lead Scales Mound Saturday morning. The coach’s daughter, Lauren Winter, had 34 assists.

The second set decidedly went the other way, with Heyworth jumping to a 9-5 lead very quickly. Ashley Hoegger, who had three service aces in the match, delivered two of them in the second set.

But the story here was in the third set, where things heated up a bit. The set had 17 of the match’s 26 ties and 10 of the 15 lead changes. It eventually came down to Scales Mound taking a 24-20 lead after a 4-0 run with Winter serving, and looking strong at the end.

But then Kelli Shaffer, who had 29 assists to lead Heyworth, as she had done so many times for Heyworth in their championship season, set it for Dakota Springer’s kill, undoubtedly the most important kill of her 18 in the match and probably the entire season. The tide had been turned.

“We just got pushed back on our heels,” Winter told reporters after the match. “We were picking things up and getting them in the air to play, but probably not in the best positions to get ourselves set up for a good hit. I kind of figured, honestly, that all we needed was one pass and we would be able to put it away and be done.”

Scales Mound has a student enrollment of just 71, and if they had won, they would have set a record for the smallest school to win this state title.

“We represented our corner of the state very well,” Scales Mound coach Angie Winter told the Bloomington Pantagraph. “We surpassed a lot of expectations from other coaches and teams from our area.”

For Heyworth, this victory marked the first state title in any sport at the school.

The Pantagraph reported that Springer had dreams during the past week of winning the state title. Asked if reality matched her dreams, she said, “It does. It’s amazing. I pictured all of our fans, our whole town here pretty much and just cheering us on.”

Class 2A: Chicago Christian d. Breese Central, 21-25, 25-14, 25-22

It’s not like Chicago Christian hasn’t been here before: they came last year and lost, also to a downstate opponent—there just aren’t that many 2A schools in the Chicago suburbs. Except this year was different.

Their opponent in the state’s final 2A girls’ volleyball match was Central High School from Breese, which has three championship trophies from this sport in its cabinet (1996, 2005, and 2007) with coach Jim Cook. They also played in the state final in the fall 2006 season but lost.

But apparently, the loss for Chicago Christian last year was fresher in the minds of the current players, because they wouldn’t give up in the early afternoon match at Redbird Arena.

Cook described the first set as “point-for-point,” with Central seeming to maintain a parallel lead of about four points throughout. For example, the score for Central was 3-0, interrupted by 5-6, then 11-7, 14-10, 17-13, 20-16, and finally, 25-21, with 5-foot-8 senior Meredith Timmons putting the set away with the final kill from Jessica Hale.

Ultimately, though, Chicago Christian was just too big, and the summary of this match comes from the understanding that they managed to block everything at the net, on the lines, and everywhere else.

“We were concerned about their height,” Cook said. “It was really hard to find a hole. They were so big at the net. They sealed off everything.”

Although 5-foot-11 sophomore Emily Lindemulder led Chicago Christian with 18 points (12 kills, 2 service aces, 2 blocks, and 4 block assists), the rest of the roster reads almost like a Kamp family album: Maggie had nine kills and a block assist in the match; Madison had five kills, a service ace, and a block assist; Stacey had four kills, a service ace, and a block assist; and Emily had two kills and two block assists.

“When you lose a match and you only have one more year of high school, there’s only one thing to do: we came back, and we won,” the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Stacey Kamp, a senior this year, as saying.

Class 3A: Mater Dei d. Joliet Catholic Academy, 15-25, 25-18, 26-24

Only three teams have ever three-peated as state champs in girls’ volleyball: Mother Macauley in Chicago (1980-82), which also holds the record for most titles won in this sport (13); St. Francis in Wheaton (2002-2004); and one team playing for the state championship this year, Mater Dei High School from Breese (1993-95).

But Mater Dei’s place Saturday night was as the spoiler, ending Joliet Catholic’s two-title streak by defeating them in a match where the third set came down to a slip on the floor, an unlucky set, and a hitting error at the end.

Here’s how it happened: The set was even at 23 when Mater Dei’s Brooke Schulte hit the ball right into a block by Vanessa Owusu and Lauren Robertson. Joliet Catholic up, 24-23. Timeout Mater Dei.

Back on the court, the next play saw a kill by Mater Dei’s Ashley Rakers, off a set from Nicole Strieker. Even at 24.

With the next play, Joliet Catholic’s Jordan Huston slipped going for Jill Hickey’s service dig, giving Mater Dei a 25-24 lead. Then, after a brief rally, a ball from Joliet Catholic’s sophomore Morgan Reardon just couldn’t get over the net. Set, match, state title, Mater Dei.

“I definitely thought we gave them a run for their money,” the Chicago Tribune quoted Joliet Catholic coach Christine Scheibe as saying. “It wasn’t meant to be for us this year.”

Mater Dei finished the season with a 41-1 record, their sixth state title, and a renewed chance to go down in history: The only teams that have won more state titles than Mater Dei are Mother Macauley (13) and St. Francis (9).

Putting the match in perspective was Joliet Catholic’s senior hitter, Lainey Wyman, whom the Chicago Sun-Times quoted as saying, “I don’t like losing, but most girls maybe only get the opportunity to play for a state title once. I was able to play in three championship matches. Sure it’s frustrating, but it was such an amazing season. It was still fun.”

Class 4A: Lyons Township d. Cary-Grove, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23

Some online publications that cover high school girls’ volleyball had written that Cary-Grove was a serious contender for the best team in the nation. But the loss to Lyons Township in a rematch of last year’s Class 4A title match has perhaps dampened some of those dreams.

“We played our hearts out,” Cary-Grove senior Colleen Smith told the Chicago Tribune. “We fought for every point. It didn’t end the way we wanted. We had a great run, such an amazing season. This is just heart-breaking.”

Lyons Township was led by Jocelynn Birks, who plans to attend the University of Illinois, Urbana, next year. She had 18 kills and nine digs Saturday evening. She said the team had been waiting for this rematch all year, watching Cary-Grove go undefeated all season long, knowing her team would eventually get their chance.

“We like to fly under the radar. That’s what we did. We came out and proved that we can be not noticed and still come out on top,” the Tribune quoted her as saying.

Cary-Grove coach Patty Langanis was disappointed with the match.

“So many times we could have cashed it in, but we never did,” she told the Sun-Times. “I really felt that if we could have gotten that third game to 24-24, we might have come through. Lyons was phenomenal.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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