2013 Varsity Team Highlights:
NORMAL, Ill. – Mother McAuley ended its longest stretch without a state title, battling two-time defending Class 4A champion Benet in both sets until crunch time, and then pounding out a 25-22, 25-19 victory.
The title is McAuley’s 14th, but its first since 2004 – Nancy Pedersen’s last before retiring as the head coach.
Jen DeJarld had brought four teams to state previously, recording one second and three third-place finishes.
“Oh my gosh, she’s been my coach for three years,” Mighty Macs setter Courtney Joyce said. “She’s such a great coach. I couldn’t have gotten here without her.”
Kayla Caffey paced the Mighty Macs (40-2) with eight kills, two of them resulting in the 25th point in Set 1, and the 24th in Set 2. Ryann DeJarld (7 kills), Kelsey Clark (6 kills), Maggie Scanlon (4 kills, 5 digs), Carla Cahill (9 digs), Mallory Maxwell (8 kills) and Joyce (26 assists, 3 kills) also starred for McAuley.
Benet (36-6) was led by Rachael Fara (6 kills), Dana Griffin (6 kills), Caroline Wolf (13 digs), Kelly O’Malley (11 digs) and Stephanie Sinnappan (20 assists).
In the first set, it was 21-20 McAuley when Clark slammed home a quick-set from Joyce. Clark then rotated out, and Caffey replaced her on the court and in action, getting another set in the middle from Joyce and putting it down.
At 24-22, it was Caffey again, putting down another Joyce quick for the set winner.
“It was totally exciting,” Caffey said. “We had such a determination to win. It was just our whole team. Everyone plays a huge part. We have excellent passers and setters. We all came together.”
Benet did some impressive rallying in the second set from a 17-13 deficit with a four-point run featuring back-to-back kills by Ashley Hitchcock and Sinnappan
A kill by Clark, however, put McAuley back in front 18-17, after which DeJarld connected on a line shot down the left side. Three consecutive Benet errors put McAuley in command.
At 23-19, Caffey delivered the definitive blow on another quick-set from Joyce.
The drought was over.
“It’s pretty unreal right now,” Ryann DeJarld said. “I’m so proud of my teammates. What a total team effort. We knew we had it in us, and we did it, so I’m really proud.”
McAuley ended what had been a 20-game state playoff winning streak by Benet.
“They outplayed us in every aspect,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “They dominated the serve, serve-receive battle, which allowed them to have three options.
“When you have as many good hitters as they do, it’s really impossible to stop. But I’m extremely proud of our girls and how hard they fought.”