The Illinois High School Association released the pairings for the 2009 girls state volleyball tournament last week. Here is a look at the potential sectional showdowns:
At Geneva: Top-seeded St. Charles East flashed its 2008 championship form over the weekend at Mizuno, and should the Saints get past Bartlett in one semifinal, they would face either Geneva or York in the finals. Geneva lost to York last year in the sectional semifinals and have been pointing to the rematch all season. York upset Hinsdale Central at Benet last weekend, but Geneva showed its resiliency by overcome Game 1 losses to Lockport and Neuqua Valley to finish fifth at the Mizuno Cup.
At Huntley: Cary-Grove, which is getting great play from junior outside Kelly Lamberti and setter Abby Heredia, and Crystal Lake South led by Caitlin Schumacher, should meet in the finals. The wildcard is Rockton Hononegah. Elgin is the top seed at the Larkin regional.
At Evanston: Glenbrook South and Evanston should have no trouble advancing to the finals in a field from field that features 10 Chicago Public Schools. Ellen Chapman vs. Ali Gossen. Clash of the Titans? When was the last time New Trier wasn't mentioneed as a potential state threat from the North Shore? .
At Stevenson: Katie Lill and Hersey should advance from a foursome that includes Lake Forest, Lake Zurich and Libertyville. A lot of "L's" in this field.
At Lockport: The traditionally-strong west suburban field moves south down I-355. Benet and Hinsdale Central, which have met twice already this season, should play the rubber match in the finals if Downers Grove North and Naperville North don't get in the way.
At Eisenhower: Mother McAuley has made this field its personal playground through the years, but Sandburg looks to be the team to beat in 2009. Marist and McAuley would meet in the other semifinal with neighborhood bragging rights at stake.
At St. Ignatius: Lyons gets the free pass to the supersectional from a field that includes nine Chicago Public League schools.
At Rochelle: Marian Central should get past Freeport and Hampshire should have little trouble with Geneseo to earn a date in the finals on November 5. Metamora, the top team in the Peoria area, and Bloomington, which placed a solid seventh at the Mizuno Cup behind Lauren Seyller, loom as potential supersectional opponents.
At Crete: Oak Forest, with Natalie Fiore towering over her teammates at 5-foot-11, are heavily favored against Rich Central, Illiana Christian and Evergreen Park. Oak Forest took a few lumps at Mizuno, losing to Rockford Guilford 26-24, 26-24 and Naperville Central in three games, but bounced back to beat Wheaton Warrenville South in straight sets to finish 15th.
At St. Francis: Can anyone stop Joliet Catholic? Kelsey Robinson and St. Francis will try, but it would take a superhuman effort to deny the Angels their second consecutive Class 3A title. Rosary and Lemont should have little trouble in their respective regionals but are heavy underdogs in the sectional semifinals. History? Last year, the Angels needed three games to beat the Spartans at the Oswego supersectional as Robinson put down 20 kills. In 2007, St. Francis won after Kelly Murphy was hobbled by an ankle injury.
At Nazareth: Defending sectional champion (Chicago) Payton has been plagued by injuries, but if healthy, don't be surprised to see Mari Faines and company punch another ticket to the supersectional. Nazareth has super setter Jill Paluch, but will it be enough?
At Vernon Hills: You have to like Crystal Lake Central and the Anderson non-twins, but Prairie Ridge, which falls from Class 4A, could be a factor. St. Viator is having a banner season and should meet Prairie Ridge in a semifinal.