Kennedy clinches conference title

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After a four year reign of either Payton or Young winning the Super Conference, there is a new team on top.

Kennedy defeated Young 25-19, 25-20 to clinch the conference title. To do so, the Crusaders had to beat both Payton — 25-19, 25-16 Tuesday — and the Dolphins in a matter of three days.

“We have six senior starters, and they’ve been together since freshman year,” Kennedy coach Timothy Laughlin said. “We knew that with all these girls coming back we would be here.

“I felt it was going to be a three-horse race between us, Payton and Young and figured playing both Payton and Young in the same week would be tough. But we took care of business.”

Unlike six of its conference opponents, which are selective enrollment schools and can draw from all across the city, Kennedy (15-1, 8-0) is a neighborhood school that draws all of its students from the Southwest Side.

“They’re mature, as a matter of fact, five of the seven have been together since grammar school,” Laughlin said. “That’s what I’m most proud about, that all of these kids are neighborhood kids, from a Kennedy feeder school. It’s kind of amazing they’ve done this well.”

The Crusaders looked like a team ready to clinch its first conference title since 2008, rushing out to 13-5 lead in the second set.

But Young fought back, going on its own 13-5 run to tie the game at 18-18. The Dolphins (11-9, 6-2) forced Kennedy into 10 errors during the run.

“I made some substitutions, brought some new kids in, and that helped us get back in it,” Young coach Jaime Walters said.

“They switched their serving up and that kinda got us,” Kennedy senior Nebal Algholeh said. “We had gotten used to the way they served in the first set, but we just put our heads together and recovered.”

None of that fazed Kennedy, however. The Crusaders went on a 7-2 run to end the game and the match, continuing their streak of not dropping a set in conference play. The team forced Young into three errors to close out the match.

“We know that if we always stick as a team, on our feet and play scrappy, we’re able to win whatever rally,” Algholeh said.

Kennedy is no stranger to success in volleyball, especially at the lower levels. The seniors on this year’s roster won the city’s frosh-soph title when they were freshmen and finished second their sophomore year.

“We kinda thought this could happen,” senior Melissa Mazur said. “We knew how a lot of their players play because we play club with all these girls (at Powerhouse), but we have a really good team.”

“We beat both those teams (Payton and Young) freshman year and it feels great to do it senior year.”

Mazur (six kills) and Algholeh and Grace Jurevis, both of whom had four kills, led Kennedy, while Ann Ernst (six kills) and Molly McGrath (four kills) led the Dolphins.

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