Mother McAuley looks for redemption

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There’s nothing complicated about the theme of Mother McAuley’s trip Friday and Saturday to Illinois State University for the Class 4A state girls volleyball finals.

At least the first part.

One year ago on the same floor, back on its heels after losing Set 1 to McAuley 25-16, New Trier roared back to win Sets 2 and 3 of the semifinal in stunning fashion. The Mighty Macs had to settle for third place.

McAuley (38-2) and New Trier (27-2) will meet again at 9 p.m. Friday. Defending state champion Benet (35-5) will meet Crystal Lake South (37-3) in the first semi.

“We have some unfinished business with New Trier is kind of how we feel,” Macs coach Jen DeJarld. “But it’s not just about New Trier. It’s about building on what we’ve done all season.”

To that end, the Macs achieved just about everything they set out to do, from beating national rival Assumption (Ky.) twice in three meetings and going undefeated against Illinois competition.

“A lot of people kind of just assumed we were going to be downstate,” setter Courtney Joyce said. “But that didn’t mean we could take a break through the playoffs. We still had to work hard.

“We wanted to meet people’s expectations. We wanted to beat their expectations. We wanted to play better than what everyone things we can. State means everything to us.”

New Trier advanced to the semifinals via a 25-19, 25-21 victory over Geneva at the St. Charles Supersectional. Brittani Steinberg, whose 15 kills proved fatal for the Macs in 2012, has graduated, but the Trevians have a multipurpose leader in setter/hitter Taylor Tashima, who leads the team in both kills (170) and assists (423).

Haley Fauntleroy (145 kills), Sarah Shafiq (121 kills) and Emily Blackwell (118 kills) also will have to be contained by the Macs.

New Trier and McAuley didn’t meet head to head during the regular season.

“I think they’re missing their outside hitter (Steinberg), but other than that they probably are as strong as they were last year,” DeJarld said. “But I believe that if we play our level of game and do what we’ve been doing all season, we’ll be on the right path.”

The Macs entered the postseason a mega-favorite to advance to state, and steamrolled through the field without losing a set. Their closest margin of victory was a 25-20 set against Sandburg in the sectional final.

New Trier equally was meticulous in the postseason, its final set against Geneva the toughest. It was 23-21 before a Tashima kill put the Trevians at match point.

“During sectionals … it’s always the toughest,” DeJarld said. “It’s pins and needles. I don’t care what anyone says, you can be the best team in the nation and it’s still going to be tough to play with a target on your back where you’re not only expected to win, but to win with authority.

“They’ve (Macs) played at high levels. Obviously last year they won third place (at state) and a national championship with club. So they’ve been in high-pressure situations, and they’re used to it. Nothing is going to surprise them.”

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