Two years ago, Chicago Christian rolled to 34 wins and a berth in the Class 2A state semifinals, where it lost to Hampshire and eventually finished fourth in the inaugural IHSA four-class volleyball tournament.
This year, faced with a much more challenging schedule which includes home-and-home series with St. Francis, Rosary and Marian Central Catholic and an appearance at the Rich East tournament where Mother McAuley, Lyons and Lemont lie in wait, Chicago Christian could have a hard time matching its win total of two years ago.
But a return visit to Bloomington is not out of the question.
The Knights (7-1) gave St. Francis all it could handle Wednesday in Palos Heights before losing 25-19, 25-22. Chicago Christian led 16-11 in game 2, forcing a St. Francis timeout, before the Spartans rallied to hand coach Peg Kopec her 1,000th win at the Wheaton school.
Kopec was certainly impressed by her school's new conference foe.
"I thought Chicago Christian did very well," she said. "They are a very strong team."
Two Knights are back from that 2007 team that reached the state semifinals for the first time in school history, 6-1 junior setter Madison Kamp and 6-1 senior outside Kirsten Harms, and there's plenty of talent surrounding the two holdovers.
Five-foot-11 junior Stacey Kamp shared team honors with Harms with six kills against St. Francis. Five-foot-11 senior Lauren Madden and 6-0 senior middle Carron VanGroningen also contributed against St. Francis.
With 10 players 5-11 or taller, height will never be in short supply at Chicago Christian. Libero Celaine Haan is only a sophomore, but she held her own against the strong serving of St. Francis.
"We heard a lot about St. Francis, and I couldn't be more proud of the way the girls played," Chicago Christian coach James Garcia said.