By Pat Brozynski

Molly makes her mark as U.S. medals at world's

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mollychina2 (UP).jpgSt. Francis' Molly Haggerty (9) celebrates a point with her teammates at the FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

A state championship. An AAU national championship. Now a world runner-up.

It's been a busy couple of months for St. Francis' sophomore-to-be and Sports Performance Volleyball Club standout Molly Haggerty of Glen Ellyn.

"I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep," Haggerty said.

Haggerty and her U.S. Girls' Youth National Team teammates, including Taylor Tashima (New Trier, Wilmette/Wildcat Juniors) and Simone Lee (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Club Fusion), made history Sunday as they earned a silver medal at the FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

It was the first time a U.S. volleyball team - boys or girls -- won a world championship medal at the youth or junior level.

Both the U.S. and China finished the tournament with 6-2 records. However, China won the gold by defeating the United States 25-16, 25-21, 25-23 in both teams' finale Sunday. Brazil took the bronze medal, defeating Peru, 25-19, 25-23, 25-12.

Haggerty, who did not play in Game 1 against China, came off the bench to lead the United States with nine kills. Just 15 years old, Haggerty was the youngest player on the 18-and-under team. But playing with the older girls doesn't faze the 6-foot-1 outside hitter.

"I love playing tough competition," Haggerty said. "Playing with the older girls helps me to get better. I learned a lot from them."

Her teammates probably learned a few things from Haggerty, too.

"She's the best 15 year old I've seen in more than 30 years," Sports Performance Volleyball club director Rick Butler said of the All-American and AAU tournament MVP, who played club for SPVB 15 Elite.

The United States' previous best world championship finish was fourth in 2003 and 2005. The United States is ranked No. 5 in the world and serves as part of the high performance pipeline to the U.S. Women's National Team, which is ranked No. 1 in the world.

In the first set, China jumped out to a 7-2 lead and the U.S. never recovered. The second set was much closer. With the score tied 14-14, Haggerty scored with a kill and China was called for a net violation, giving the United States a 16-14 lead.

"I didn't start any of the matches," Haggerty said. "I usually came in midway through the first set or at the start of the second set if they needed an outside hitter or if somebody was struggling."

However China scored the next three points to retake the lead. With the score tied 20-20, China reached set point with a kill, two straight U.S. errors and an ace. Haggerty held off the loss with an attack before China won the set on a United States violation.

China led the third set 19-12 when the United States used a 6-3 run to pull to within four at 22-18. China reached match point at 24-19. The United States pulled within one at 24-23 before China won with a kill from the middle.

"We had such good team chemistry," Haggerty said. "We got along so well on and off the court. Even our coach (Jim Stone) said that. I think that chemistry really helped our play."

The final standings were: 1. China, 2. United States, 3. Brazil, 4. Peru, 5. Japan, 6. Serbia, 7. Poland, 8. Dominican Republic, 9. Turkey, 10. Italy, 11. Chinese Taipei, 12. Greece, 13. Slovenia, 14. Puerto Rico, 15. Egypt, 16. Thailand, 17. Argentina, 18. Mexico, 19. Tunisia, 20. Algeria.

Haggerty arrived back in Chicago early Monday after three fights and 19 hours in the air. She will have a week to recover before the high school season begins with tryouts and practice next week.

St. Francis, with Molly and Maddie Haggerty, Mary Boken, Becca Shearer and Sam Dubiel returning from last year's Class 3A championship team, figures to contend again in 2013.

Molly Haggerty is already looking forward to the Asics Challenge at Mother McAuley and a potential date with defending tournament champion Assumption (Louisville, Ky.).

"There were two girls from Assumption (Molly Sauer and Kenzie Maloney, who both play for Asics KIVA 16 Red) on the youth national team," Haggerty said. "I know they're hoping to play us at McAuley."

A word of warning to the girls from KIVA. Be careful what you ask for.


Natalie Canulli, a junior at Benet, has verbally committed to play volleyball for Penn State, head coach Brad Baker said. Canulli is a 5-foot-8 outside hitter for the two-time Class 4A state champions and a libero for the Sports Performance 16 Elite team.

Canulli, who will play libero for the Nittany Lions, said she selected Penn State for its combination of academics, in particular the Smeal School of Business, and athletic tradition.

"My dream is to win a national championship, and playing for Penn State affords me a unique opportunity to do so," she said. "I understand the commitment and tradition of excellence and I am very excited and appreciative of the opportunity."

Canulli is the third member of the 2013 Benet team to commit to a Division I program, joining middle hitter Brittany Pavich (Boston College) and defensive specialist Caroline Wolf (Wake Forest).

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This page contains a single entry by Back Row published on August 5, 2013 5:57 PM.

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