NORMAL — Asked if Wheaton St. Francis had the best high school volleyball team she had seen this season, Morton coach Jami Greve answered with the speed of a quick set.
“By far,” she said after her team fell to the Spartans, 25-9, 25-20, in Friday’s 30th annual Class AA state volleyball tournament quarterfinals at Redbird Arena. “They just have too many offensive threats.”
The No. 8-nationally ranked Spartans, who are attempting to become the first school to win titles in both classes, improved to 39-2 and face Joliet Catholic (36-5) in today’s 11:30 a.m. semifinal.
Morton, which reached its first Elite Eight with a super-sectional victory over Bloomington, ended the season 35-5-1.
Joliet Catholic, ranked No. 72 nationally, dispatched Winnetka New Trier, 25-15, 25-22, as the Trevians ended 30-10.
Today’s 12:30 p.m. semifinal pits Barrington (33-8) against No. 63-nationally ranked Rockton Hononegah (35-2).
Barrington advanced with a 25-23, 25-14 triumph over Darien Hinsdale South (21-20) while Hononegah moved on after a 25-14, 14-25, 25-16 win over Belleville Althoff (28-13).
After breezing through the first game, St. Francis found the going tougher in the second, falling behind 9-8. The Spartans regained control for good after a 9-1 run put them up, 17-10.
“The first match down at state is always a little scary,” said St. Francis coach Peg Kopec. “I thought it was a little difficult for us. We didn’t know much about Morton.
“I’m very impressed with Morton. They had staying power. They didn’t give up on any balls. I thought we played well the first game. The second game, we has some issues.”
Ball State recruit Alyssa Rio had six kills and 12 digs for St. Francis, while Saint Louis recruit Meg Power hammered five kills as did Meghan Matusiak. Michelle Kocher had 18 assists as her team outhit the Potters, .400 to .127.
“I think it’s only human nature in this type of environment, the girls were a little nervous and tentative,” Greve said.
“I think a lot of it was nerves,” agreed Morton middle hitter Hope Mooberry, who had six kills in nine attempts.
Allison McGlaughlin led Morton with 12 kills, while Brooke Bisping added 23 assists and Julie Boss eight digs.
Joliet Catholic-New Trier
Joliet Catholic clinched its fifth state trophy as 6-2 setter Kelly Murphy provided 12 kills, 15 assists and five aces during a 7-0 run to give her team a 17-9 lead in the first game.
“I think the big key was Kelly getting on a big run of service aces,” said Angels’ coach Christine Scheibe. “They were struggling to get the pass. That gave us confidence.”
New Trier came to life in game two, taking an 8-3 lead. The Angels later tied it at 15 on a New Trier hitting error. A kill by Laura Cole put the Angels ahead to stay at 20-19.
“Obviously, we didn’t come out and play much of our game the first game,” said Trevians coach Hannah Hsieh. “Joliet Catholic is a strong team. I thought they beat us up at the net. I think we can play better defense.”
New Trier, which lost the ace race 9-2, failed to advance past the quarterfinals for the fifth time in six years.
“We were never expected to get out of our sectional any of those years,” Hsieh noted. “I don’t feel we come in intimidated.”
Joliet Catholic outhit New Trier, .333 to .106, as Nicole Kump provided five kills and Laura Wakefield four. Kayly Elmer led New Trier with four kills while Jessie Atlas and Katie Marshall had three apiece.
After forcing Barrington to the brink in a first game featuring seven ties, the wheels fell off for Hinsdale South in game two.
“We played scared,” said Hinsdale South coach Liza Martinez, whose team had vanquished 13-time state champion Chicago Mother McAuley in the super-sectional. “We didn’t come ready to play tonight. We let the environment get to us.”
Barrington also got to the Hornets with frontline balance as Amy Raseman and Autumn Worozaken each had six kills while Jenny Borchers and Natalie Barton each had five.
Spreading the offense out was Michigan-bound setter Lexi Zimmerman, who had 24 assists.
“This team continues to refuse to lose,” said Barrington coach Christopher Bronke. “Hinsdale South came out and played a very solid first game.”
The Fillies put game two out of reach with a 7-1 surge to go up 14-7. A 6-0 run later pushed the gap to 22-11.
“I think our serve receive was good,” Zimmerman said. “It helped us run our offense. We pulled it together as a team.”
Barrington, which finished with a 6-1 edge in aces, adjusted its lineup the second game to create some favorable matchups of its best servers against some suspect Hinsdale South rotations.
Martinez, whose kill leaders were Lanette Niemann and Joanna Giampolie with four apiece, felt her players didn’t rely on each other as they had before.
“They tried to do it on their own,” she said. “They struggle on their own. They need support. They didn’t accept support.”
After these teams traded 25-14 decisions the first two games, Hononegah grabbed the momentum early in the third game by going up, 13-6.
“Our speed was a factor the first game,” said Hononegah coach Julian Jacques. “Obviously, they made good adjustments the second game.”
Hononegah readjusted the third game to create favorable matchups. Illinois State recruit Katie Culbertson did her part with four kills in 13 attempts and a team-high six block assists as the Lady Indians outblocked Althoff, 7-3.
“That was a huge deal tonight,” said Culbertson of the blocking. “I think it got in their outside hitters’ heads so we kept pushing and pushing.”
The Lady Indians were led by 6-foot-5 Wisconsin-bound junior Elle Ohlander, who had 15 kills on .519 hitting. Whitney Schott provided 32 assists.
“We were a little intimidated hitting against at 6-5 girl,” said Althoff coach Kathy Wuller. “We ended up tipping some balls in the third game we shouldn’t have.”
Kelley Michnowicz kept Althoff in the match with 18 kills on .500 hitting. Kayla Fitterer added 10 kills while Katie Speichinger had 19 digs. Hononegah won the digging war, 40-38.
“I thought their defense was incredible,” Wuller said. “They picked up some balls that should have been down.”