Jean Field has won 886 games in her 39 seasons coaching the volleyball team at Immaculate Conception.
She’s seen just about all there is to see, including guiding some special teams, two of which have won state championships.
This year’s group may be the third.
The Knights advanced to their first state semifinal since 1989 by overpowering Morgan Park Academy 25-14, 25-13 at Saturday’s Class 2A Lisle Supersectional. IC (35-6) will play Deer Creek Mackinaw at noon Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal.
“Every now and then you get a really special team and this is it,” Field said. “They are just a wonderful group of kids. They’re great to work with.
“Our seniors have worked really hard all season and I guess it’s filtered down to all the younger kids. They’ve been focused on what they want to accomplish since the beginning of the year.”
One of those goals was to get to state and the three seniors – setter Kimmy Martino and outside hitters Rory Manion and Delaney D’Amore – showed the way. They propelled the Knights past the Warriors (21-9) with an impressive display of heavy hitting, powerful serving and flawless setting.
D’Amore spiked eight of her match-high 13 kills in the opening set, which Morgan Park Academy actually led 8-7 before IC went on a 13-2 run. Much of it came on the serve of Manion, who served eight consecutive points.
None of those points were aces but the ball had so much topspin on it that the Warriors were called for a string of illegal hits.
“They were certainty serving the ball hard and there was a lot of spin on the ball and the tricky thing is we don’t play many teams like this, so we’re not used to the power and the serves,” Morgan Park Academy coach Tom Daker said. “Both games we were right there but obviously they’ve got some power and good ball control and a great setter. They’ll be tough to beat.”
The 6-foot Manion displayed her versatile athleticism throughout, both with her serving and her hitting. With the second game tied at 8-8, she spiked three of her five kills in a four-point sequence to help trigger a 14-3 run that put the match away.
“We weren’t sure what we were expecting so we just gave everything we had because we wanted this so bad,” Manion said. “We had to come out strong with a lot of energy and intensity and everything. Obviously, I have a really big heart for the game and I wanted it and my team wants it.”
The Knights have a deadly 1-2 combo in Manion and D’Amore. Martino, who had 21 assists, regularly got them the ball.
“It’s great,” D’Amore said. “We just feed off of each other and it’s so great to have [Manion] out there because you know you can always count on her.”
Now the Knights have secured their seventh state trophy.
“It’s so important for us this year,” D’Amore said. “We have such a great team and we just really want to do this for each other and for our school and all our supporters. We just want to make everyone proud.”
Katelyn Healy had five kills and Isabelle Panozzo three to lead the Warriors.
“It was a great season,” Daker said. “They’re just disappointed that they didn’t show a little better tonight.”