By Pat Brozynski

IHSA wastes opportunity for dramatic state finish

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Barrington improved to 16-2 by going 5-0 to win the Elk Grove Invitational on Saturday. The Fillies defeated Stevenson 25-21, 25-13 in their final match of the day.


The Illinois High School Association has no sense of the dramatic.

The association that governs interscholastic sports held its annual "rolling of the peas" last week to determine the semifinal pairings for the girls state volleyball tournament. And it was not good news for the top contenders in Class 3A and 4A.

If the top teams avoid upsets and reach Redbird Arena in Bloomington, Sun-Times' No. 1-ranked Benet would meet York in one Class 4A semifinal while defending state champion Breese Mater Dei and Joliet Catholic would collide in a Class 3A semifinal.

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Prepvolleyball.com recently released its latest national high school rankings, and defending Class 3A champion Breese Mater Dei is the highest-ranked team in Illinois. The Knights (18-0), who have won 39 consecutive matches are ranked 17th.

Benet, the top-ranked team in the Chicago area, sits at No. 23, followed by York at No. 25. Joliet Catholic checks in at No. 57, followed by No. 58 Huntley, No. 64 Cary-Grove, No. 88 Marist, No. 90 Mother McAuley and No. 94. Edwardsville.

Sandburg is listed among the teams "waiting in the wings" and St. Francis fell out of the rankings after reaching No. 91 in the previous poll.

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Three former Joliet Catholic Academy volleyball players - Kelly Murphy, Alyssa Warren and Lainey Wyman - were honored as "Players of the Week" by major collegiate conferences last week.

Warren was named Big East Player of the Week. The sophomore libero is the first Seton Hall volleyball player to earn the award. She set a career-high with five aces against. Hofstra and then set a school mark with 45 digs against. Boston College.

Her 45 digs broke the old mark of 41, which stood for 21 years. She was also named to the Seton Hall Invitational All-Tournament Team.

Murphy (Florida) was named Offensive Player of the Week by the SEC, and Wyman (Mississippi State) was named Freshman of the Week by the SEC.

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Lyons' senior outside hitter Laura Williams may be known for her hard hitting from the outside, but she made big news at her high school recently for what she has been doing in the backrow.

Last week at Glenbard West, the Duke-bound senior smashed the school dig record of 860.

The previous Lyons record was held by Jamie Lundstrom, who was a starting libero for three years before graduating in 2010. Lundstrom is now the libero at Division I Belmont University, where she sets the single-game dig record.

However, Williams is not likely to hold the record for long. Senior libero Megan Miller, who has committed to Wake Forest, is hot on Williams' heels.

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Benet and Joliet Catholic figure to go off as the top two seeds at the 24-team Mizuno Cup tournament hosted by St. Charles East at the Great Lake Volleyball center October 7-8. But it's anybody's guess how the rest of the top eight seeds will shake out.

Hinsdale South seemed like a lock for a top eight seed after its performance at the Wheaton Classic, but the Hornets faltered at the Waubonsie Valley Warrior Blast. St. Charles East should be somewhere in the top eight.

Edwardsville also would have been a lock for a top eight berth, but the Tigers were stunned by 7-7 Belleville Althoff last week. Edwardsville committed more than 30 errors in the marathon three-set match, which does not bode well for their anticipated state title run.

The best of the out-of-state group appears to be Leon (Fla.), which was 9-1 at the end of last week. Elkhart Central (Ind.) Is probably a top 16 choice, while Muskego (Wis.) Is hovering around the .500 mark in the dairy state.

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Crystal Lake South is 9-9 after its third-place finish at the Elk Grove round-robin Saturday and starting to turn the corner despite a roster that features only four seniors.

"You can see the inconsistencies are usually just the young part of working it out, figuring out how to be that strong consistent self for an entire match," Crystal Lake South coach Jorie Fontana said.

"We've been battling that all season, and we're starting to make the steps toward progressing," she added. "We're definitely hitting a turning point where its turning more in our favor."

Among the youngsters who see plenty of court time for the Gators are junior libero Katie Myers , sophomore rightside hitter Avalon Nero, 5-11 freshman outside Carly Nolan, and 6-1 sophomore middle Nicole Slimko.

And there's another Burkle on the way, too - 6-foot freshman middle Emma Burkle.

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Stevenson's junior outside hitter Rachel Baader has been sidelined with a thumb injury, but coach Tim Crow said the doctors believe it is sprain and not a torn ligament as initially feared. Baader could be back by this weekend's Stevenson invite.

"Her return just depends on what I allow and her pain," Crow said. "We're looking at senior night on Tuesday and our invitational coming up this weekend, so that gives us a little bit of time. We'll try it out in practice and see how she feels."

Stevenson is 15-5 with a win over LIbertyville last week and second-place finishes at the Jacobs and Elk Grove tournaments.

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Jean Field, whose coaching career spans 37 years, 808 wins and a pair of state championships at Immaculate Conception, has no immediate plans to retire.

"I'll keep going for awhile," she said recently. "I enjoy it, so I haven't found any reason to stop. I like the competition, and I've worked with a lot of great people. You don't get this far without a lot of great people around you.

"Talk to Peg (St. Francis coach Kopec), talk to anybody else who has been around for a long time and won a lot of games," Field added. "It's because of the people you've worked with and the kids you've had playing for you. It's a nice journey."

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This page contains a single entry by Back Row published on September 24, 2011 8:34 PM.

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