By Phil Brozynski
The Illinois High School Association held its “rolling of the peas” last week to determine the brackets for its four-class volleyball tournament.
If the tournament held to form – and how often does that happen? – the Class 3A semifinals would pit Bloomington (or Sycamore) and St. Francis (or Joliet Catholic) in one semifinal and Crystal Lake Central and Belleville Althoff in the other.
The Class 4A semifinals would feature Wheaton Warrenville South against Mother McAuley (or Stagg or Sandburg or Marist) and Schaumburg (or possibly New Trier) against Naperville North (or Naperville Central).
Closer to home, the Nike Challenge gets underway Friday with (who else?) Assumption (Ky.) at 17-1 and ranked third nationally (according to John Tawa of prepvolleyball.com) as the top seed. Sacred Heart (Ky.) at 19-5 and ranked 14th nationally is the second seed.
Although the non-locals have dominated this tournament in recent years, this could be the year a Chicago-area team breaks through in the championship game. St. Francis and Joliet Catholic figure to be among the top challengers.
Other Illinois teams to watch include unbeaten Stagg, Downers Grove South, Marist, Sandburg, and last year’s Class AA runner-up, Rockton Hononegah led by 6-5 Wisconsin recruit Elle Ohlander.
Speaking of recruits, Tawa recently released his list of the top 100 seniors in the nation, and to almost no one’s surprise, Joliet Catholic’s uncommitted Kelly Murphy is rated as the best senior in the country.
“Probably the most versatile player in the 2008 class, Murphy has the ability to be a top setter, hitter or even a defensive specialist at the next level because she can do it all,” Tawa said. “She is smooth and fluid on the floor in every way.”
Other Illinois seniors in Tawa’s top 100 include Naperville North’s Colleen Ward (No. 7), Collinsville’s Michelle Bartsch (16), Keith Country Day’s Jordan Haverly (20), Sandburg’s Alex Blatt (22), Ohlander (28), and Rosary’s Christine Hartmann (35).
Also, St. Francis’ Megan Barnicle (48), Bloomington’s Ashley Beyer (70), Wheaton Warrenville South’s Becca Zlabis (73), Streamwood’s Katie Post (76), Whitney Young’s Simone Asque (79), and St. Charles North’s Gretchen Giesler (80).
Other Illinois players in Tawa’s top 100 are Crystal Lake Central’s Kathryn Chrystal (83), St. Francis’ Michelle Kocher (84), Columbia’s Anna Eytchison (92) and Sycamore’s Allison Johnson (98).
Also, congratulations to (Elmhurst) Immaculate Conception’s Jean Field, who recently earned her 700th career win. I first met Jean in 1979 when her team defeated the Monmouth Zipperettes 20-11, 20-6 in the 1979 Class A quarterfinals. IC finished second that year.
Finally, it was a little disconcerting looking at the bronze brackets for the Nike Challenge on the Mother McAuley website. There in huge letters across the top of the bracket sheet are the words “Nike Challenge 2005.”
Did I miss something?