By Pat Brozynski

November 2010 Archives

All-star game showcases some of Illinois' top talent

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(Pictured at right is Lemont's Courtney Keefe.)

Haven't got enough of your favorite senior volleyball players?

Sports Town Chicago (www.sportstownchicago.com) will sponsor the 2010 Girls High School Volleyball All-Star Game at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 6 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills.

Thirty-six of the top seniors in the state are scheduled to play, including Meg Vonderhaar (St. Francis), Emily Iverson (York), Courtney Keefe (Lemont), Danielle Romeo (Hinsdale South), Jessi Mainczyk (Queen of Peace) and Sarah Hunt (Prospect).

Also, Emily Paschke (West Chicago), Caroline Niedospial (Marist), Jamie Netisingha (Hinsdale Central), Kendra Mikuta (Sandburg), Whitney Kiefer (Scales Mound), Martha Stewart (Waubonsie Valley) and Shay Michel (Mt. Assisi).

Also, Ellen Chapman (Glenbrook South), Catie Steffen (Libertyville), Delaney Clesen (Evanston), Kelly Lamberti (Cary-Grove), Mari Faines (Payton), Lara Ontko (Benet), Amanda Raschke (Reavis) and Madison Kamp (Chicago Christian).

Also, Courtney Thomas (DeKalb), Mary Kate Styler (Marist), Jocelyn Birks (Lyons), Lainey Wyman (Joliet Catholic), Jessie Fiala (Naperville North), Dena Ott (Marian Central), Maddie Croft (Edwardsville) and Emily Young (Schaumburg).

Also, Jackie Gulczynski (Bartlett), Shealynn Kolosky (Wheaton Warrenville South), Tracy Friel (Crystal Lake South), Kate Aronson (St. Ignatius), Colleen Smith (Cary-Grove), Ailivia Holman (Rockton Hononegah) and Kelsey Keeve (Lyons).

Coaches are Patty Langanis (Cary-Grove) and James Garcia (Chicago Christian).

Sponsors include Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, JZ Law Offices, Illinois Center for Broadcasting and Baden.

The proceeds benefit A Silver Lining Foundation and the organization's fight against breast cancer.

***

Here is (reprinted by permission) John Tawa of Prevolleyball.com talking about his choice for the national high school champion:

By John Tawa

There wasn't a lot of movement in the rankings this week, as 12 states finished up their seasons, leaving only California to conclude.

Last week, I promised to detail why St. James will be our national champion. Here goes:

I arrived at St. James as our No. 1 through a process of elimination.

Illinois' Cary-Grove, which was No. 1 until last week's rankings, may well have been the best team in the country, but the Trojans lost a heartbreaker to Lyons Township in the state 4A final two Saturdays ago. You can't win a national championship without first winning a state championship. (It was very warm Monday in Chicago. I extended my trip to the Midwest, where I attended the Michigan finals, in anticipation of presenting the national championship trophy to Coach Patty Langanis and Cary-Grove. Alas, it was not to be).

Nebraska Class A champion Papillion-La Vista may be the best team in the country. Two other entities, MaxPreps and ESPNRise, think so. ESPNRise bases its decision largely on two facts: that Nebraska teams in the largest classification don't often go unbeaten and that three members of the squad were on the Nebraska Juniors team that won Junior Nationals in the 16 Open division. I'm not saying that MaxPreps and ESPNRise are wrong; I know Papio South's personnel - the Rolfzen twins were my National Freshmen of the Year last year and I picked Nebraska Juniors to win Nationals - I just can't award a NATIONAL championship to a team that does not play a national schedule.

The only out of state team Papillion South played was Iowa's Bishop Heelan. Heelan was a very good Iowa team, but not a great one, finishing with a 46-10 record and tied for third in the 3A division. Staying local, the Titans needed help from Class B state champion Omaha Gross to contend seriously for the national title. Gross attended the Asics Challenge in Chicago and a strong showing there by the Cougars could have spoken volumes about the highest levels of Nebraska volleyball. Unfortunately for Papio South, Gross finished only 13th (out of 24) as the Challenge. The Cougars' best win there came over unranked Utah 5A champion Lone Peak. Gross lost to Wisconsin Division 2 champion Catholic Memorial, ranked No. 52; and to Sandburg, a good team but not one ranked among the top 10 in the Chicagoland area.

Another reason to deny Papio South is that cannot intellectually distinguish its great season from the season Iowa 3A champion Mt. Vernon had. Mt. Vernon is ranked No. 28 by ESPNRise and unranked according to MaxPreps, but we have the Mustangs No. 6 because we know their personnel, which includes four six-foot plus players who all played on the Iowa Rockets 17s club team that was one of the best teams in the nation last year.

Like Papio South, Mt. Vernon went undefeated in 2010 and was by far the best team in the state. Like Papio South, it did not venture beyond state borders though it could have. Like Papillion South, it could have been aided by a strong showing from Dubuque Wahlert at the Asics Challenge. But the Golden Eagles were just an average team this year and showed it with a 17th-place finish in Chicago, losing to Cary-Grove and Lone Peak.

Here's the kicker: Mt. Vernon defeated Bishop Heelan in the Iowa 3A semifinals. When Papio South won, in two sets, the point differential was 10. When Mt. Vernon won, in four sets, the point differential was 20.

The bottom line is that we cannot really distinguish one of these teams from the other. We do know, however, that neither played national schedules. Therefore, neither can be our national champion.

Long Beach Poly is playing awfully well right now and could win the California state title. Could the Jackrabbits be the best team in the country? Possibly, but they cannot be our national champions for the simple reason that they've lost twice already. We have never recognized a national champion with more than one loss on its resume. And on those occasions when we have chosen a one-loss team, that loss has come to a team our national champion also defeated during the season. Of Poly's two losses, one, to Harvard-Westlake, cannot be avenged.

Could Lyons Township have been our national champion? The reasons for choosing Lyons were compelling: the Lions were the only team to defeat a Cary-Grove team that may have been the strongest in the country, they avenged their only loss with a convincing sweep of Marist in the state quarterfinals and they were undefeated with their full roster on the floor.

So why not elevate Lyons? Well, the team did defeat Marist and Cary-Grove, but otherwise didn't play a schedule that was all that tough. I was also impressed by the opinion of several coaches who witnessed the final that Cary-Grove was actually the better team despite the loss. One of those coaches, from a Missouri state championship team, said that she thought one-loss St. James was clearly a better team than one-loss Lyons. Based on those factors, Lyons could not go ahead of St. James.

The toughest call came down to Indiana 2A champion Muncie Burris and one-loss Kansas 4A champion St. James. Like Papio South and Mt. Vernon, Burris stayed in state and fashioned an undefeated season. The Owls handed Indiana 4A champion Penn its only loss and defeated the 4A runner up as well as the 3A champion. Unlike Papillion South and Mt. Vernon, however, Burris was able to play, and defeat, Louisville Assumption in the final of its own tournament. That's a huge win for any program and one that de facto establishes it as one of the national elite.

But was it enough to earn it a national title? We concluded "no" for several reasons: 1. At least four coaches we know and respect a great deal and who know the Muncie area intimately and the Burris program in detail told us in confidence that this Burris team was not a dynastic team. 2. Assumption coach Kordes said that while Burris was a good team, both Cary-Grove and Harvard-Westlake, the other two teams the Rockets lost to, were better.

That wasn't enough for us, however. Because if St. James wasn't better than Assumption, how could we make the Thunder national champion over a Burris team that had actually beaten the Rockets?

To help us with this problem, we turned to Louisville Mercy coach Todd Garvey. Mercy finished second to Assumption in Kentucky this year and faced the Rockets four times, winning the first in five, then losing the last three times. Mercy also lost to St. James, 25-12, 25-16, in the semifinals of the St. Joseph's Tournament of Champions. We asked coach Garvey who would win between St. James and Assumption.

"I think if they played 10 times St James would probably win 6 or 7," he said. "Assumption has the best hitter in Houser and more height and power but St James has the better ball control, defense and serve receive. They have a quick offense that I think would be hard for AHS to stop. And they didn't seem to make hardly any unforced errors from when I watched them."

Okay, so having established that St. James could have beaten Assumption, what is the case for the Thunder over Muncie Burris? They played a tougher schedule and a national schedule, plain and simple.

While Burris' schedule includes wins over the Indiana 4A and 3A champs, the Indiana 4A runner up and the Kentucky champion, St. James' resume includes wins over the Kansas 5A champ and runner up, Missouri Class 4 champion and runner up, Missouri Class 3 champion, Oklahoma 5A champion and Kentucky runner up.

Unlike Burris, St. James did lose, but its loss came to a Bishop Miege team that it also defeated three other times, a Miege team that repeated as Kansas 5A champion, a Miege team that is ranked No. 14 currently but was pre-season No. 4. In that loss, moreover, St. James battled back from five points down in the third and decisive set to take a 21-20 lead. The Thunder might have won, too, but for the late-match heroics of Shelby Workman in Miege's 25-23 win.

Two points. Against a team it had already defeated three times. That's how close St. James came to a 45-0 season. If the Thunder had gone undefeated, there'd be no debate here. They'd clearly be No. 1 in light of Cary-Grove's loss. In the extended analysis, however, we still think that St. James did enough to merit the edge over Burris. The Thunder maximized their opportunities to play top national-level competition, won every tournament they played in, defeated five teams in the national top 10 and own 21 wins over teams in the national rankings. That's might impressive.

In tabbing St. James as our national champ, we also note that the Kansas City area, where St. James is situated, is thriving as a volleyball community. At the Show Me National Qualifier in May, clubs from Kansas City won 15 Open (Invasion), 16 Open (MAVS), 17 Open (KC Power) and 18 Open (KC Extreme). Invasion 15 Black also won Crossroads and Nationals in Reno. One year before, KC Power won 16 Open at Junior Nationals in Miami Beach.

Of the 11 players on St. James' roster, nine played on Open-level teams at Junior Nationals in Reno. A 10th played on an Invasion 16 Black team that won 16 American, while senior RS Molly O'Brien, who has signed with Nebraska-Kearney, played for the Team KC 17s team that played in the National division. In other words, these kids are legit.

It was a tough call, as all of the teams considered are great teams that had great seasons. But for us, the combination of great players and a kick-butt national schedule puts St. James just a tad higher than everyone else.

2010 Century Club National High School Rankings

1. St. James (Lenexa, Kansas)
Final record: 44-1; Last week's ranking: 1

2. Burris (Muncie, Indiana)
Final record: 39-0; Last week's ranking: 2

3. Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Nebraska)
Final record: 41-0; Last week's ranking: 3

4. Lyons Township (La Grange, Illinois) Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 4

5. Cary-Grove (Cary, Illinois) Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 5

6. Mount Vernon (Iowa)
Final record: 41-0; Last week's ranking: 6

7. Poly (Long Beach, California)
Current record: 36-2; Last week's ranking: 13

8. Assumption (Louisville, Kentucky)
Final record: 39-4; Last week's ranking: 7

9. Pope (Marietta, Georgia)
Final record: 54-1; Last week's ranking: 8

10. La Jolla Country Day (California)
Current record: 30-3; Last week's ranking: 9

24. Mater Dei (Breese, Illinois)
Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 25

38. Marist (Chicago, Illinois)
Final record: 37-3; Last week's ranking: 39

68. Benet (Lisle, Illinois)
Final record: 32-7; Last week's ranking: 69

69. Mother McAuley (Chicago, Illinois)
Final record: 32-8; Last week's ranking: 70

70. Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Illinois)
Final record: 34-8; Last week's ranking: 71

92. Edwardsville (Illinois)
Final record: 32-9; Last week's ranking: 91

Teams on the bubble (listed state-by-state, alphabetically)
Illinois: Althoff, Crystal Lake Central, Hersey, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Huntley, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Marian Central, Minooka, Moline, Quincy, Sandburg, St. Francis, Stevenson, York

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Does (No. 4 pictured at right) sophomore Jessica Brezwyn's HInsdale South team have all the pieces in place for a run at the 2011 state title?


Wondering who might win the Class 4A state in 2011? You're not alone.

According to research conducted by an unnamed source, your likely winner in Class 4A is either York or Marist.

Why? It's a little complicated, but those are the only schools that share a characteristic with the last five state champions in either Class AA or Class 4A -- a Division I senior setter and two outside hitters who played for either the Sports Performance, 1st Alliance, Club Fusion or Sky HIgh 16-1 team.

(Actualy, every team that finished second also had a senior future Division I setter, and all save Rockton Hononegah had at least one outside hitter that played on a Spri, 1st Alliance, Fusion or Sky High team...but not two).

Here are the last five state champions in 4A and why they stack up:

2010 -- Lyons had not one but two future Division I setters in Erin Juley and Alexis Viliunas, and two outside hitters who played on 1st Alliance's 16-1 team in Jocelynn Birks and Laura Williams. (Note: Lyons will have only two of those pieces in 2011.)

2009 -- Cary-Grove had Abbey Heredia setting and juniors Kelly Lamberti and Colleen Smith roaming on the outside.Lamberti and Smith both played outside at one time for Sky High's 16-1 team which won a national club chamionship.

2008 -- Laura Homann set for St. Charles East before moving on to big-time college ball, while two of her favorite targets were sisters Caroline (Maryland) and freshman Meghan Niski. The Niskis both played outside for Fusion 16-1. Having Jacqui Seidel on the outside didn't hurt, either.

2007 -- No wonder Naperville Central was so good. Meghan McMahon was the Redhawks' Division I setter and she had three outside hitters off Sports Perormance's 16-1 team to turn her attention to -- Rebecca Heath, Emily McGee and Megan Bray.

2006 -- St. Francis had Michelle Kocher (Texas) setting (although she was only a junior at the time) and Meg Boken and Alyssa Rio on the outside (Sports Performance's 16-1 team).

So the magic formular for 2011? A future senior Division I setter and two outside hitters who played on either Spri's, 1st Alliance's, Fusion's or Sky High's 16-1 team. The only teams to meet that criteria in 4A? York and Marist.

Oh, and Joliet Catholic, too. But the Angels are in 3A.

There are some teams that come close with two out of the three pieces. Those teams include St. Charles East, Hnsdale South, Huntley, Downers Grove North, Mother McAuley and Lyons in 4A. Rosary and Marian Central have two out of three in 3A.

Of course, this is good in theory. But what is really does is point to one fact: the team that wins the state title among the big schools usually has an abundance of talent. A little luck doesn't hurt, either.

***

Lisa Orlet is out and Sara Thomas is in at perennial downstate power Belleville Althoff, it was announced last week.

Orlet left to become an assistant coach at Washington University in St. Louis. She succeeded Kathy Wuller two years ago as coach at Althoff, posting a record of 53-22 including 25-13 this season that ended with a sectional semifinal loss to Breese Mater Dei.

Thomas is 24 years old and a graduate of Missouri State University. A former player at Althoff, Thomas was a member fo the team that finished fourth in Class AA in 2003. Her sister Carly plays at Missouri State. Thomas is an assistant manager of sales for a meat company in Fayetteville, Mo.

***

Here are the most recent national rankings (sans comments) by Prepvolleyball.com's John Tawa. Cary-Grove fell out of the No. 1 spot to No. 5 while Lyons climbed to No. 4. I included the entire top 10 for comparison purposes.

2010 Century Club National High School Rankings

1. St. James (Lenexa, Kansas)
Final record: 44-1; Last week's ranking: 3

2. Burris (Muncie, Indiana)
Final record: 39-0; Last week's ranking: 2

3. Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Nebraska)
Final record: 41-0; Last week's ranking: 4

4. Lyons Township (La Grange, Illinois)
Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 10

5. Cary-Grove (Cary, Illinois)
Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 1

6. Mount Vernon (Iowa)
Final record: 41-0; Last week's ranking: 6

7. Assumption (Louisville, Kentucky)
Final record: 39-4; Last week's ranking: 7

8. Pope (Marietta, Georgia)
Final record: 54-1; Last week's ranking: 8

9. La Jolla Country Day (California)
Current record: 28-3; Last week's ranking: 9

10. King (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Current record: 46-3; Last week's ranking: 13

25. Mater Dei (Breese, Illinois)
Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 26

39. Marist (Chicago, Illinois)
Final record: 37-3; Last week's ranking: 38

69. Benet (Lisle, Illinois)
Final record: 32-7; Last week's ranking: 71

70. Mother McAuley (Chicago, Illinois)
Final record: 32-8; Last week's ranking: 72

71. Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Illinois)
Final record: 34-8; Last week's ranking: 74

91. Edwardsville (Illinois)
Final record: 32-9; Last week's ranking: 96

Dropped out:
York (Elmhurst, Illinois)
Final record: 36-6; Last week's ranking: 76

Teams on the bubble:
Illinois: Belleville Althoff, Crystal Lake Central, Hersey, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Huntley, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Marian Central, Minooka, Moline, Quincy, Sandburg, St. Francis, Stevenson, York.

Twenty-five things about the state finals...

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Former Joliet Catholic outside hitter and state champion Alyssa Warren (pictured above) now plays libero at Seton Hall.


The annual "crystal ball" look ahead to the 2011 season, the top players and teams, will come out in a week or two. Meanwhile, here are some things to ponder about the 2010 state championships last weekend at Redbird Arena:

1. Was there anybody not wearing red rooting for Heyworth in the Class 1A championship game against Scales Mound?

2. The entire community of Scales Mound (not that it's that big) must have been in the audience for both of the Hornet's matches.

3. Overall, attendance was disappointing. There were more fans for the smaller school games than for any of the 3A or 4A contests.

4. The officiating was inconsistent (I bet Abby Gilleland has not been called for as many lifts all season as she was in the 3A semifinal).

5. Somebody turned the media hospitality room into a storage closet.

6. The officiating hasn't kept up with the speed and quality of the game.

7. Working media cannot subsist on generic pretzels and popcorn all weekend.

8. Maybe it is time to abolish term limits on officials doing state tournament games and let the best officials, regardless of how many times they have worked a state tournament, officiate the state finals.

9. The food at Redbird Arena is horrible and overpriced. No wonder they can't sign any decent basketball players. They don't want their families to get ill watching them, at least not on the food.

10. How can an official call a net violation when it has no bearing on the play to give a team match point in a state championship match?

11. The Sherrard pep band rocks.

12. Nobody wants an official to decide who wins.

13. Sycamore's Veronica Behrens has a beautiful singing voice.

14. I wish ALL anthem singers would stop channeling Whitney Houston.

15. I never knew Breese Central's Jena Hemann was such a beast on the track.

16, Will Toledo Cumberland's Amy Roan get axed after not winning a state title? (Her two predecessors each coached for one year and did not return after failing to win championships).

17. Once again, Stacey and Maggie are sisters, Emily and Maddie are cousins. I think.

18. The IHSA's "experiment" to run matches continuously starting at 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Friday and 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday worked well, although some Payton fans missed the first game of their team's semifinal on Friday.

19. Bloomington Central Catholic players wore purple shoelaces to honor Shirley Lockett, whose two daughters played volleyball there. Lockett died of pancreatic cancer October 21.

20. Kudos to IHSA assistant executive directors Matt Troha and Stacey Lambert.

21. Was there a better-looking freshman at Redbird Arena than Decatur St. Teresa's Marie Less?

22. Big Ten basketball official Ed Hightower, we know where you work.

23. Cary-Grove joined Prairie Ridge (2005) and Naperville Central (1998) as the only teams playing in the largest class (AA or 4A) that entered the championship game unbeaten since Mother McAuley in 1982. All three lost.

24. Cary-Grove's Kelly Lamberti (21 kills) and Lyons' Jocelynn Birks (18 kills) both broke the 4A state championship game record of 17 kills set by Benet's Ariana Mankus in 2008.

25. Finally, Joliet Catholic defeats Breese Mater Dei to win the 2011 Class 3A title.

***

In other news...

Seton Hall freshman libero Alyssa Warren (Joliet) racked up 48 digs in two matches two weekends ago to help the Pirates go 1-1 and stay in the hunt for the Big East championship. Warren had 30 digs in a four-set victory over Syracuse (one shy of tying her career-high) and 18 digs in a five-set match against Marquette.

Warren has 480 digs on the season which is a new Seton Hall freshman record and the third-highest, single-season total in school history.

Other local members of the Seton Hall volleyball team are senior Sarah Osmun (Crystal Lake), junior Meghan Matusiak (Winfield) and senior Megan Murison (Woodridge).

Mintook? Is that anywhere near Valmeyer?

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Joliet Catholic (pictured left) is seeking its third consecutive state championship this weekend at Redbird Arena in Normal.


Maybe they will remember "Minooka" now.

An article in a downstate newspaper following the sectional semifinals on November 2 referred to Edwardsville's next foe as "Mintook." Hey, I may not be a card-carrying member of the National Geographic Society, but even I know my Marion Crab Orchards from my Marian Central Catholics.

Although it does not play in a "power" conference and can rarely be found at one of the top tournaments during the regular season, "Minooka" beat Normal Community 25-23, 25-21 in a regional championship match and upset Quincy 25-23, 25-21 in the aforementioned sectional semifinal before losing to Edwardsville 25-20, 25-23 in the sectional finals.

The postseason run, which included their first regional title since 1999, capped a 26-7-1 season for the Indians, who won the Suburban Prairie Conference with a 13-1 record and the Minooka Invitational, beating Normal U-High in the semifinals and St. Charles North in the championship.

Minooka was led by senior outside hitter Dariyan Hopper, a North Carolina State recruit, who had 10 kills in the win over Quincy and a season-high 21 in the Minooka tournament title match against St. Charles North.

"Everyone knew she was going to get the ball, but she is nearly unstoppable," said coach Chris Hoelscher. "Her passing and defense were also key for our team."

Other standouts included senior outside hitter Stacy Perinar, senior middle hitter Caleigh Hill, middle hitter Terese Tyrell, setter Briana Marquez, and defensive specialists Haley Bowden and Taylor Troutman.

***

Schaumburg coach Jeannette Pancratz could not stop beaming about 6-foot-1 senior Emily Young, a four-year varsity player and three-year starter who will take her considerable talents to USC next fall.

But it wasn't all about Young's ability as a player that left such a huge impression on Pancratz.

"Emily is a player that few of us are privy to encounter in our coaching careers," Pancratz said. "She has been blessed with God-given gifts and abilities and has taken responsibility to develop and utilize them positively to be the best that she can be.

"Emily plays at a very high level in all aspects of the game. While most people witness her high level in setting, hitting, blocking, serving, and digging, few see her ability to pass and her relentless pursuit to the ball.

"Few see her attentiveness to detail, her respect of the game, her sacrifices, her unselfishness, her loyalty, her integrity, and her courage. Few see her interaction with the younger players as she works to leave a legend and instill passion for the game in them.

"Emily is a true winner, a true champion, not because of her statistics, but because of her commitment to excellence and her impact on others. Her leadership and enthusiasm raises the level of play of those around her and creates an atmosphere of persistence and determination."

Young had 404 assists, 49 aces, 210 kills, 56 blocks and 222 digs to lead Schaumburg to the Mid-Suburban League championship game. She had 560 kills, 113 aces, 911 assists, 151 blocks and 569 digs in her career.

Young also ranked in the top 3 percent of her class and is the president of the National Honor Society at Schaumburg.

***

Pressure? On Chicago Christian? To win state?

You bet.

The only team back from the 2009 Class 2A field of four, Chicago Christian is making its third trip to the semifinals in four years. After failing to win a game in 2007 and finishing second in 2009, the Knights are facing expectations from within and without.

But coach James Garcia is trying to minimize the damage.

"We are keeping the girls loose, having fun, and trying to keep the pressure off of them as much as possible," he said. "We know they are thinking about it though. Some of them have made mention about getting back to state, some have said about winning it all this time."

"Well, we hope we can," he added. "That would be such a great accomplishment for these girls. They have put the time in over the summer and in practices to compete in every game they play. I like where we are at, and now it's just a matter of going out and executing."

Garcia admitted he did not know a lot about the other three teams in the field - Decatur St. Teresa, Bloomington Central Catholic and Breese Central - but no matter who they face, they still have to take care of business on their side of the net.

"A lot of these teams we are unsure of, only because it's so hard to find any information on them," he said.

"We have to go out there with the mentality that it doesn't matter what color uniform is on the other side of the court, there are six bodies representing another school that we have to compete against and beat to achieve our goal of winning a state championship."

***

Some folks might think that reaching the state semifinals for the first time in school history is a mixed blessing for (Woodstock) Marian Central, since the Hurricanes draw two-time defending state champion Joliet Catholic in its opener.

Not so.

"This is such an exciting time for Marian volleyball," coach Laura Watling said. "It means so much to finally make it to the semifinals. This team has pushed and fought for every point and they deserve to be downstate.

" We are looking forward to playing on such a big stage this weekend and hopefully making a run for the championship," she added.

***

Caitlin Piechota and Mary Nilles were two big reasons for Batavia's record-setting season, which included the most wins in school history (32) and the best finishes in all four tournaments in which the Bulldogs competed.

Piechota, who was expected to sign with Western Carolina on November 10, was named to the all-tournament team at Plainfield North and was first-team all-conference in the Upstate Eight River. She led Batavia in kills with 298 and aces with 50.

"Caitlin is a very solid all-around player," said coach Lori Trippi-Payne. "Her presence in the back row was just as strong as her front row presence. She really stepped into her own this year."

Nilles, a junior setter/rightside hitter who has orally committed to Marquette, wrapped up her third season on varsity with 157 kills, 48 blocks, 19 aces, 120 digs and 397 assists. She set a school record for setting accuracy at 97.4 percent.

"This was really a breakout year for Mary," Trippi-Payne said. "She matured as a setter and as a hitter, becoming one of our top offensive weapons. She also played better defense and put up a big block."

***

Finally, here are the 2010 Century Club National High School Rankings as of November 4 courtesy of Prepvolleyball.com's John Tawa.

1. Cary-Grove (Cary, Illinois)
Current record: 38-0; Last week's ranking: 1

The Trojans won three times last week to open the playoffs, but Tuesday's win over DeKalb, an upset winner over Huntley, was the most satisfying. The day before the match, a DeKalb player was quoted in a local paper as saying that her team could beat the nation's No. 1 team because it lacked height and had not played a competitive schedule.

25-9, 25-14.

Senior setter Colleen Smith served DeKalb off the court in Game 1 with four aces in a 12-point service run. Kelly Lamberti did the honors in Game 2, serving eight in a row to help the Trojans open a 10-2 lead. Cary-Grove takes on Hononegah today in a 4A sectional final. Cary-Grove won 25-16, 25-8 when the teams met Oct. 9.


16. Marist (Chicago, Illinois) Current record: 36-2; Last week's ranking: 15

Marist reached the Sectional final after winning a Tuesday semifinal versus Providence Catholic. But the Redhawks struggled to put away Providence, as was the case in the regular season when the teams went three sets. This time Marist won in two, 25-23, 25-18, behind 11 kills from Mallory Salis and 19 digs from Carks Niedospial. A crowd of several thousand is expected tonight for the sectional final, a rivalry match with Mother McAuley.


17. Lyons Township (La Grange, Illinois) Current record: 37-1; Last week's ranking: 16

Lyons pounded Oak Park-River Forest on Tuesday behind 26 total assists from Erin Juley and Alexis Viliunas to reach today's sectional final versus a 29-9 St. Ignatius team that has come close to beating the likes of Mother McAuley and Hinsdale South. If the Lions get by Ignatius, they will play either McAuley or Marist with a berth in the 4A Final Four on the line.


The Next 75 (with random notes inserted)

28. Mater Dei (Breese, Illinois) Current record: 37-1; Last week's ranking: 31

Random note: Mater Dei knocked Althoff Catholic out of the playoffs for the third straight year on Tuesday, sweeping the Crusaders in a match that last only 42 minutes. Ali Mueller's four kills in Game 1 set the tone for the Knights, who will play Carbondale today in a sectional final.


38. Benet (Lisle, Illinois)Current record: 32-6; Last week's ranking: 40

Random note: Benet found itself down one set in its Tuesday Sectional semifinal versus Waubonsie Valley, then rallied to take Game 2 behind the hitting of Jenna Jendryk and dominated the third behind six kills and three aces from Lara Ontko. The Redwings play Hinsdale South, which knocked off Hinsdale Central in a mild upset, today for the Sectional title.


53. Mother McAuley (Chicago, Illinois) Current record: 32-7; Last week's ranking: 63

Random note: MaryKate Styler had a huge match on Tuesday as the Mighty Macs eliminated Sandburg in a sectional semifinal. Marist is next.


84. Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Illinois)Current record: 31-7; Last week's ranking: 86


91. York (Elmhurst, Illinois)Current record: 34-4; Last week's ranking: 99


Dropped out:

Moline (Illinois) Final record: 34-3; Last week's ranking: 43


Teams on the bubble (listed alphabetically)

Althoff, Crystal Lake Central, Edwardsville, Hersey, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Huntley, Lanark Eastland, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Marian Central, Minooka, Moline, Quincy, Sandburg, St. Francis, Stevenson

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