By Phil Brozynski
Lemont silenced the doubters last weekend.
The Indians did not win the 34th Annual Rich East Volleyball invitational, but by reaching the finals and pushing Mother McAuley in the second game of the championship match, Lemont established itself as a threat to win the Class 3A state title.
Especially after the Mighty Macs buried nationally-ranked and pre-season 3A favorite Belleville Althoff 25-8, 25-11 in the semifinals.
"We have the potential," Lemont coach Chris Zogata said. "We were right there. If we had passed from the beginning of the match, it might have been completely different. We're hitting well. If we can pass the ball, we can really take care of business."
Lemont led 22-21 in the second game on a kill by sophomore Courtney Keefe (eight kills). But a service error, an ace by Sue Hayes, a kill by Jessica Galotta and another Lemont error gave the Mighty Macs the title, 25-15, 25-23.
The loss, however, did not dampen Zogata's enthusiasm.
"This weekend was our test," she said. "To have to play Marist, Belleville West and Lincoln-Way East, then to beat Lyons which has improved so much since earlier in the season, is very exciting."
Lemont would have to get past Joliet Catholic and St. Francis to reach Bloomington. But the Indians have plenty of firepower with Keefe, Jenna Litoborski, Aubrey Sniegowski, Danielle Susz, Danielle Keefe and setters Vicki Wrobel and Becca Bograd.
And after going toe-to-toe with McAuley and beating a vastly improved Lyons team, the Indians will be ready.
Meanwhile, the tournament raised some questions about Althoff's credentials. Even coach Kathy Wuller was stunned.
"We stunk," she said. "It was a total team breakdown. We've never been that bad of a passing team. I don't know where that came from. We're not that bad.
"But it seems that every time we play McAuley, we play scared," Wuller added. "I don't know if it's their tradition. It seems just the word 'McAuley' puts a scare in the team. Also, McAuley is a little better than people give them credit for."
Althoff will have a chance to make amends when it participates in the St. Charles East Mizuno Cup tournament October 10-11 at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center in Aurora.