The IHSA tournament begins, common sense ends

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Does Benet have one more title in its future?

Chicago Sun-Times 2012 Top 10 Girls Volleyball Teams

(Last week’s ranking in parenthesis)

1. Benet 33-2 (1)

Benet wrapped up the regular season with a 26-24, 25-21 victory over Providence Thursday. Cara Mattaliano and Brittany Pavich each had six kills. Nicki Barnes and Rachael Fara added four apiece. Hannah Kaminsky had 22 assists. Earlier in the week, Benet beat St. Viator 25-17, 25-5 behind Mattaliano’s 12 kills and Kaminsky’s 21 assists and three aces. Now the real fun begins for Benet, which faces a treacherous route to state that includes a probable regional championship match with homestanding Naperville Central and a sectional semifinal against Lauren Carlini and West Aurora (really, Yorkville is outside the “Chicagoland box?”).

2. Mother McAuley 31-4 (2)

Michelle Konecki had 17 assists and nine digs for Mother McAuley, but it was not enough as the Mighty Macs fell to St. Ignatius 25-18, 15-25, 25-23 in the championship match of the GCAC Red tournament at Queen of Peace. Ryann DeJarld and Kennedy Arundel each had nine kills for the Mighty Macs. Carla Cahill had 21 digs. Earlier in the week, the Mighty Macs rallied from down a set to defeat Lyons 18-25, 25-13, 25-20. Meanwhile, Sandburg’s late-season surge has made the teams’ sectional semifinal match at Lincoln-Way Central very interesting. The Mighty Macs then would likely face Marist in the sectional finals, and if they survive that, enigmatic Hinsdale South in the supersectional at McAuley.

3. Marist 29-5 (3)

Mallory Salis had 12 kills and Taylor Holder added 13 assists and five digs as Marist took down Carmel 25-19, 25-21 in its East Suburban Catholic Conference finale Tuesday. The Redhawks closed out the regular season at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona over the weekend, where they won the Platinum division by beating St. Joseph’s Academy. Tuesday, they will likely face Bloom in the regional semifinal at Lincoln-Way North before meeting Lincoln-Way Central in the regional final on Thursday. The Knights have been up and down since reaching the Mizuno Cup finals, losing to Sandburg and Lockport while beating LW East and Champaign Centennial.

4. Joliet Catholic 29-6 (4)

At least the IHSA put Joliet Catholic and St. Francis in opposite halves of the bracket at the Glenbard South sectional. The Angels did get a bad draw with a likely meeting with Providence in the regional finals at Lincoln-Way West, but 3A newcomer Immaculate Conception does not figure to be an overwhelming impediment in the sectional semifinals before the Angels hook up with St. Francis. Joliet Catholic wrapped up the regular season with a 25-27, 25-12, 25-18 victory over Marian Catholic behind Morgan Reardon’s 17 kills and 26 assists and eight digs from Mallory Mangun.

5. New Trier 34-1 (5)

Tuesday’s easy 25-13, 25-14 Central Suburban League victory over Evanston and a 25-13, 25-9 road victory at Niles West on Thursday kept New Trier’s perfect season alive heading into Saturday’s regular season-ending tournament at Lyons, where the Trevians lost to the hosts in pool play. New Trier rebounded to beat Normal 25-12, 25-10 for fifth place. Meanwhile, looking ahead, the Trevians should only face token resistance in the state tournament until running into Trinity in the sectional finals at Niles North and possibly Glenbard West in the supersectional at Niles West.

6. West Aurora 30-5 (6)

Naperville North’s 25-13, 14-25, 25-23 victory over Naperville Central knocked the Redhawks out of the DuPage Valley Conference title picture and allowed West Aurora, a 25-13, 25-14 victor over West Chicago and an easy 25-6, 25-18 win over Glenbard East on Thursday, to win the league title outright. A sectional title may not be as easy as the Blackhawks must first get past a decent Rosary club in the regional finals and either top-ranked Benet or old nemesis Naperville Central in the sectional semifinals to advance deeper in the state tournament.

7. St. Francis 30-5 (7)

The Spartans reached the 30-win plateau for the 27th consecutive season with Wednesday’s 25-11, 25-16 victory over Chicago Christian. McKenna Kelsay had 17 assists and three kills and Michelle McLaughlin added seven kills for the Spartans. But the Spartans cannot count on receiving as much help as they did from the Knights (16 errors in Game One) when the state tournament begins. Earlier in the week, McLaughlin had six kills and Sarah Dubiel added nine digs as St. Francis downed Aurora Central Catholic 25-12, 25-15. The Spartans will probably see Aurora Central catholic again in its regional opener Tuesday at IMSA.

Photo (left) by Jon Langham.

8. Glenbard West 32-2 (10)

After dropping their first two matches of the season and finishing sixth at Glenbard East two weeks ago, the Hilltoppers celebrated their first outright West Suburban Conference title since 1984 and a perfect loop through the league with a victory over visiting Proviso East on Thursday. “I know my girls are resilient,” Glenbard West coach Pete Mastandrea said. “They understand they still have a ceiling that they can attain.” Glenbard West is the top seed at the Elgin Larkin sectional and would likely face St. Charles North in a sectional semifinal before meeting either Geneva or St. Charles East in the sectional finals.

9. Libertyville 29-6 (8)

Defensive specialist Vicki Liu ignited Libertyville from the service line to lead the Wildcats to a 25-18, 25-16 victory over Lakes and their second North Suburban Conference title in three years. Kristen Webb had 21 digs, Cindy Zhou had 13 assists, Taylor Zant and Julie Smagacz each had five kills and Alex Basler added three kills. The road ahead is fraught with peril, as the hosts could push Libertyville in the Lake Zurich regional with Hersey awaiting in a sectional semifinal at Fremd. Stevenson, which Libertyville edged for the NSC division title but which defeated the Wildcats in a tournament title match Saturday, is the top seed at the Fremd sectional.

10. Sandburg 27-8 (NR)

David Vales is a master of getting his team ready to play at the end of the season. Wednesday’s 25-20, 25-22 victory over Lincoln-Way Central for the Southwest Suburban Blue title was the Eagles 13th win in a row. Dakota Hampton led the way with 10 kills and 11 digs. Paige Bendell added 20 digs, 11 assists and 10 kills and Sami Knight distributed 14 assists. Can Sandburg keep the momentum heading into the state tournament? Sandburg will likely face Lincoln-Way East for the Eisenhower regional title and Mother McAuley in the Lincoln-Way Central sectional semifinals.

Others: Stevenson, Lincoln-Way Central, Naperville Central, Marian Catholic, Hinsdale South, Stagg, Naperville North, Prairie Ridge, St. Ignatius, Crystal Lake South, Providence, Hersey, Palatine, Richmond-Burton, Lockport, Trinity, Nazareth, Fremd, Crystal Lake Central, Jacobs, Lincoln-Way East, Rosary, Immaculate Conception, Chicago Christian, Lemont, DeLaSalle, Glenbard South, Timothy Christian, St Charles East, Cary-Grove, Montini, Downers Grove North.

Dominating in the desert: Mallory Salis, who was recently named “Player of the Year” in the East Suburban Catholic Conference after leading Marist to a 9-0 league record, was named the MVP of the 64-team NIKE National Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz. last weekend. Marist went 5-0 at the tournament, defeating Valencia (Calif.) 25-19, 25-14; Desert Vista (Ariz.) 25-27, 25-23, 15-13; Bishop Gorman (Nev.) 25-18, 25-10; Basha (Ariz.) 25-16, 25-18; and St. Joseph Academy (Mo.) 25-19, 25-23 (championship). Joining Salis on the ESCC all-conference team were Rachel Dalton, Elyse Panick and Kelly Marcinek.

Fly like a (Golden) Eagle: Nicki Barnes, a 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter from Benet who plays club volleyball at 1st Alliance, has committed to play collegiately at Marquette University. “Marquette went to the top of my list the first time I visited,” Barnes said. “It is the perfect fit for me academically, and I couldn’t be more excited about the volleyball program. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be a Golden Eagle.” Barnes was thrust into a starting role following the graduation of Jenna Jendryk (Dayton) and Meghan Haggerty (Nebraska) and the transfer of junior Maddie Haggerty (St. Francis). “Nicki is a high level athlete who has worked very hard and played volleyball for an extremely long time,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “Nicki has the ability to hit a variety of shots and has a high level of understanding of the game. Marquette is lucky to be getting Nicki as she is a wonderful person who will make a great teammate and help the Marquette program become better.”

Good things come to those who wait: St. Ignatius became the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division champion for the first time in school history last weekend, defeating Mt. Assisi, Resurrection, avenging a loss to De La Salle and beating Trinity to give head coach Erik Eastman and assistant coach Patty Ryan their 200th win since taking the program over in 2005. In the championship on Sunday, the Wolfpack defeated No. 2-ranked Mother McAuley 25-17, 15-25, 25-23. This was the first time in school history St. Ignatius has ever beaten the Mighty Macs and ended McAuley’s 13-year reign as Red champions. It is the first small or large division title for the Wolfpack since 1987. Sophia Dodd was named GCAC Player of the Year and received her fourth All-GCAC nod. Camille Evans, Casey Harris and Jana Brusek were also named All-GCAC.

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