NORMAL, Ill. (Nov. 13) — The Illinois girls’ volleyball state finals took place Saturday at the Redbird Arena, and for the Class 4A champion, the victory in the state title match handed the school its first-ever first-place trophy in any sport.
Editor’s note: Voxitatis maintains a searchable and sortable database of all state titles won by Illinois schools in sports and activities sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association since the start of the organization in the late 1800s. Although the pandemic disrupted some of our record keeping, we are working to restore the database’s completeness after this fall’s football state championships.
Aurora (Metea Valley) d. Chicago (Mother McAuley)
15-25, 25-18, 25-17
Before this match in the state’s final Class 4A contest against Mother McAuley, the 15-time state champ in girls’ volleyball, Metea Valley had never won a state title in any sport, which isn’t as void as it sounds—the school was built in 2009 in far-west suburban Aurora, joining Waubonsie and Neuqua Valley high schools in the burgeoning Indian Prairie Unit School District 204.
The first set was intense from the beginning, and with athletes flying all over the court at such a fast pace, it’s not easy to remember such a hard-fought girls’ volleyball match. Mother McAuley took the first set easily and seemed poised to add another title to their long list in the sport.
But Metea Valley started off the second set a bit up—until the Mighty Macs fought back, that is. But late in the set, Mother McAuley couldn’t get past the serve of Emily Kozinsky, including two service aces, which brought the Mustangs from 17-17 to 24-17 and a short skip away from victory to tie the match at one set each.
The third set started with a kill by Maura Pilafas to put the Mustangs up 1-0, and they never lost the lead. We saw 6 kills in the set from Kira Hutson for Metea Valley, bringing her to 15 for the match, with a .250 hitting percentage. That’s impressive enough, but as Mother McAuley dropped to a hitting percentage of .083 for the set, the closest they could get was 18-15.
LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy) d. Belvidere (North)
25-18, 20-25, 25-21
School history was also made in the state’s Class 3A title match—on both sides of the court: Belvidere North had never made it this far in girls’ volleyball, though the school has won several cross country state titles. And Nazareth, though the school has three football titles since 2014, had never won the title in this sport—until now.
The first set was all Nazareth, really, powered by the defense of libero Gillian Grimes. She posted 10 digs to the stat sheet by the time the set was 15-13 in her team’s favor and would post 35 in the match by the end. She’s a 5’7″ senior headed to Michigan State, according to the IHSA announcers for the event.
The second set fell to Belvidere North on the strength of 6’2″ senior Rachel Scott, who delivered 6 of her 18 kills for the match in the second set, with a .278 hitting percentage. But even with 7 kills for Scott in the third set, it just wasn’t enough, though the teams played mostly even to end the match.
Lombard (Montini) d. Pleasant Plains
The Class 2A championship also made a little school history: Montini has won some 29 state titles, all since the 1999-2000 school year, in various sports, 15 of them coming in boys’ wrestling. But this victory was the first girls’ volleyball title for the Catholic school in Lombard.
It was the perfect cap to a championship season: the team had a 38-1 record, their only loss coming to Glenbard West in late August. Over the season, the Lady Broncos lost only six sets, scoring a minimum of 20 points in those six sets. The last set they lost was on October 12, but then on October 14, the Lady Broncos defeated Mother McAuley, this year’s 4A runner-up, in two sets.
Their defense was strong and was followed up by a relentless offense throughout the title match.
Champaign (St. Thomas More) d. Augusta (Southeastern)
22-25, 25-18, 25-17
Even the power offense of 5’10” freshman Amanda Stephens for Southeastern, who had 371 kills this season before tonight and reached the 400 mark in the title match, wasn’t enough to win two sets against St Thomas More, a team that carries a number of Division I prospects. With only 140 students in the school at Southeastern, none of the athletes have signed letters of intent.
Southeastern has been to this match before—in 1981, 2001, and now 2021—but they’ve never won. Given the strength they showed in their defeat, though, they are certain to be back.
St. Thomas More won the girls’ volleyball title four years ago. They’ll be back as well, maybe next year, if outside hitter Mallory Monahan, a 5’11” junior, returns. She had 11 kills and a .400 hitting percentage in the match and brought the victory home for the Sabers in the third set.