Barrington (pictured above) defeated Hersey 25-20, 25-22 Thursday to claim its first Mid-Suburban League title since 2006.
How long has it been since Mother McAuley has advanced to the state finals in Bloomington?
It's only been three years - the Mighty Macs finished third after losing to Benet in the 2008 semifinals - but that is an eternity in McAuley years.
But McAuley coach Jen DeJarld isn't thinking that far ahead.
"I just want to get through my regional and my sectional, and then worry about that," she said. "I can't really think about that. My stomach drops when I think about it. We have the toughest road to the state tournament. It's been like that for a couple of years. If we're good enough, we'll make it there. I believe I have the team to do it."
DeJarld likes the balance her team has with seniors Jackie Aird, Lizzy Scanlon, Lauren Grady and Ryann Arundel, junior Sydney McPhillips and sophomores Courtney Joyce and Gabrielle Ennis.
"It's a nice balance," she said. "We do have great senior leadership from this group. I think that's an edge this year. They have a bitter taste in their mouths. Six of them have been with me since sophomore year. Two of them came to state with us in 2008. They know what it's about.
"We want to get back there," DeJarld added. "It's like a drug. It's addicting. Definitely, my addiction is getting to state. We have the taste. I have been here 17 years. We've done it many, many times as players and as coaches."
Since the state went to four classes in 2007, getting downstate has gotten tougher for teams from the south and western suburbs. McAuley must get past the likes of Marist, Sandburg, Providence and the Lincoln-Ways in its sectional and Lyons or Hinsdale South in the supersectional.
"It's definitely harder than it's ever been to get down there now that they only take four teams," DeJarld said. "Our road never seems to change, and everyone seems to always be good. It doesn't seem like anyone has a down year.
"Just when you think that someone's going to be down, they're not," she added. "It's a tribute to how strong Illinois volleyball is right now. It is open up to anybody. There's really not one dominant team. There are a lot of really strong teams that are very comparable."
It's not that York's Katie Gallagher did not want to face Lyons for the third time this season in the finals of Saturday's Lyons tournament. But enough is enough.
"I think we see them enough," she said. "It's always fun to play them though. But we like being able to play new teams to get a different feel for what's going on, teams that we don't always see.
"When you play the same teams, you get used to them and sometimes you don't have as much energy," Gallagher added. "So we like to play some new teams. It's definitely interesting."
Cathedral Catholic (21-2) of San Diego defeated Sun-Times' No. 2 Marist 17-25, 25-17, 15-11 Saturday in the finals of the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Arizona, behind tournament MVP Morgan Cormier (11 kills) and Krissy Witous (seven kills).
Cathedral Catholic is ranked No. 82 in the most recent Prepvolleyball.com Century Club National High School Rankings. Marist was No. 28.
York coach Patty Iverson lauded the Lyons tournament for providing a diverse field of teams that the Dukes would not normally see - and one team that the Dukes could see down the road.
"This tournament is great," she said. "We didn't play anybody we've played before. We got to play New Trier and New Trier is the supersectional feed. Lake Zurich, we never see them. We've never seen Minooka. So this has been really great for us.
"When you see someone from somewhere else, you see a different style of play," Iverson added. "When you see these different teams, these are nice teams, they put up a good fight. It's hard for us. We do we have matches where we don't play very well.
"Against Lake Zurich (in the finals), that match we had to figure out how to win. We weren't getting the push from our hitting. So what do you have to do to win? You have to ace, you have to block, we had to play defense. We were scrapping, and that's good."
Some folks may have been surprised by Lake Zurich's appearance in the finals of the Lyons tournament Saturday, but not coach Matt Aiello.
"We've battled a lot this year to get to the point where we are," he said. "We have a lot of talent, but we have different experience levels. The two weeks, two-and-a-half weeks we've played real good volleyball.
"We made some adjustments to our lineup and we're using a different defensive scheme," he added. "We're ready for next week (regionals)."
Lake Zurich, which finished third at the Maine West Pumpkinfest two weeks ago, is 24-11 heading into the Libertyville regional. If the Bears survive the hosts, the sectional field at Buffalo Grove could include Lake Forest, Stevenson and Hersey.
New Trier (27-7) will be favored to emerge from the Glenbrook South sectional to face the St. Charles East sectional final winner at the York supersectional on November 5.
New Trier coach Hannah Hsieh coach was pleased with her team's fourth-place showing at the Lyons tournament despite the absence of three players.
"To play as well as we did, we beat Minooka and went tough with York, I thought we played very well," Hsieh said. "I was really proud of the way the girls adjusted. We had to move positions around. The girls did a terrific job fighting.
"We turned a corner on some adjustments on ball control, and it was a great confidence booster to see York before we could see them in supersectionals," she added. The girls are excited. If we can stay healthy, we'll be happy to see them again."
Is there a tougher Class 3A sectional field than the one at Joliet Catholic?
Joliet Catholic (29-6) is the top seed and will be heavily favored to advance to face the Metamora sectional winner at Lincoln-Way West on November 5. The Angels have weathered the loss of 6-foot-2 middle Laney Wyman (Ole Miss) and setters Jordan Huston and Meredith Vertin.
Five-foot-11 junior Morgan Reardon leads Joliet Catholic's attack. When healthy, Kelly Feigh provides support on the outside, and 5-6 libero Jill Hickey is one of the best in the business. But the Angels must shore up their defense at the net.
"We definitely are going to be working on our blocking," Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe said. "I also think the thing we need to do is get some consistency on the floor. We've played one complete match with our starting lineup and that was the first match with McAuley at the beginning of the year."
The sectional field also includes Wheaton St. Francis (29-6), powered by 6-2 Daiva Wise and Carly Warner, the 5-10 setter/outside hitter who sat out the entire 2010 season after transferring from Naperville North.
The darkhorse in the field is Rosary (23-12). Rosary, which is just 6-5 in its last 11 matches, is led by University of Houston recruit and outside hitter Amelia Wegman, setter Abby Konovodoff and outside hitter Brianna Flagg.
Minooka's Stacy Perinar may not be a household name outside the Southwest Prairie Conference, but the Eastern Michigan recruit turned more than a few heads Saturday at the Lyons tournament.
Minooka (24-4) finished fifth after strong performances against Lake Zurich and New Trier.
"I feel like throughout conference, we play the same teams over and over again and this gives us a chance to see what we have to do going into regionals," she said. "It's not going to be like the conference games where we know what they're going to do.
"The Lyons tournament shows that there are other teams that are working hard and that are better than us," Perinar added. "Playing these teams is preparing us for regionals, and it's always fun to play tough competition.
"The tougher the competition, the more intense the game is and the more everyone picks up. It's exciting playing teams that you usually don't see. It's just fun."
Barrington senior outside hitter Olivia Szuszkiewicz hopes the Fillies' return to the Mid-Suburban League conference championship sets an example for the program's younger players to emulate.
"I just want this program to see that as you get up higher in volleyball and get better, and you come together and work as a team, it really does all come together in the end," she said. "Working hard plus doing your best equals success. That's just how it works."
The GCAC recently announced its all-conference selections. Players named were:
Red Division - Jackie Aird, Ryann Arundel, Esme Condon, Lauren Grady, Mary Kate Mixan, Brigid Powell, Lizzy Scanlon (Mother McAuley); Sophia Dodd, Carmille Evans, Mary Grassano, Courtney Somerville (St. Ignatius); and Julie Dombai, Megan French, Meghan Tomaszewski (Regina).
Also, Kristi Gierman, Allyson Murray (Queen of Peace); Christine Janci, Alexa Krogstad, Molly Powers (Resurrection); Jacqueline Kibir-Evans, Mikayla Leyden (Trinity); and Kaitlin Mohr and Anna Pontarelli (Loyola).
White Division - Mykel Adams (Seton); Natalie Arredia, Arianna Hayden, Julianna Townsend, Bridget White* (De La Salle); Melissa Carrillo (St. Francis de Sales); Tania Jarmola, Marta Kyrvdyk, Isabella Reilly (Gordon Tech); Juliana Pater (Maria); and Melissa Quintana and Rebecca Watson (St. Joseph).
Blue Division - Claire Chester, Eman Hamdan, Kelly Mercurio (St. Scholastica); Alexis Genge, Mary Fran Usenik (St. Benedict); Tania Lopez (Josephinum); Nina Mendoza (Notre Dame); and Itzayana Perez (Holy Trinity).