High-SchoolVolleyball: Sacred Heart

By Walter Villa

CHICAGO, Ill. – The 25thannual Asics Challenge started Friday night, but the biggest story involving the 24 teams happened before the tournament’s first serve floated into play.

Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.), ranked third in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, lost 25-22, 25-21Thursday night to No. 35 Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.), the hosts of the Asics Challenge.

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David Villegas/ESPNHSNewport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) knocked defending champion Cary-Grove (Cary, Ill.) out of contention on Day 1 of the Asics Challenge.
What Berkeley (12-1) had hoped would be a tune-up for Asics instead becomes the Bucs’ first loss -- and it may have ruined their shot at a national title.

But just as surprising as the loss was the fact that it came in straight sets.

“Thursday was a perfect match on our end,” Mother McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “I’m proud that we beat them, and we beat them in two (sets).

“My girls were able to follow the game plan from Point 1 to 25. It was a battle – never more than a two- or three-point lead by either team.”

With the win, Mother McAuley (18-2) continued what DeJarld said has been a two-week run of success. If anything, she said, her team’s two wins Friday at Asics snapped the streak of excellent play.

Mother McAuley dropped the first set against Nazareth (LaGrange Park, Ill.,) before rallying to win 23-25, 25-16, 25-14. After that, Mother McAuley impressed again, defeating No. 31 Martin County (Stuart, Fla.) 25-21, 25-19.

Berkeley Prep, the top seed, continued to struggle early Friday, dropping the first set against Wahlert (Dubuque, Iowa) before rallying to win 24-26, 25-21, 25-16. Berkeley then beat Pius XI (Milwaukee, Wis.) 25-18, 25-15.

Berkeley can still make a big impression if the Bucs win out on Saturday and prevail in a tournament with eight other FAB 50 teams.

And, DeJarld expects Berkeley to play with a chip on its shoulder on Saturday.

“Anger,” DeJarld said when asked how Berkeley handled the loss on Thursday. “They didn’t know what hit ’em a little bit. We’re flying under the radar.”

Something to watch for: Berkeley and Mother McAuley could meet in the semifinals Saturday if both teams continue to win.

New champ guaranteed

Cary-Grove (Cary, Ill.), the defending Asics Challenge champs, was knocked out of contention with a 25-8, 22-25, 25-23 loss to No. 37 Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.).

The day’s big biggest upset came Friday night, when No. 37 Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) fell to Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.) 21-25, 26-24, 25-20.

Also winning their pools on Friday were No. 5 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.); No. 26 Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.); No. 38 Marist (Chicago, Ill.) and Catholic Memorial (Waukesha, Wis.).
By Walter Villa

high schoolCourtesy of Michelle JakubowskiSetter Eli Manning will try to lead an experienced Huntley (Huntley, Ill.) squad to the Asics Challenge title this weekend in Chicago.
Eli Manning is, in effect, the quarterback of the volleyball team at Huntley (Huntley, Ill.).

Manning’s name is pronounced exactly the same as the New York Giants quarterback – but they’re not related. And while the Giants’ Manning is famous for engineering a huge Super Bowl upset over the New England Patriots, his volleyball-playing namesake and her teammates scored a major surprise last week when they beat Cary-Grove (Cary, Ill.), snapping its 61-match regular-season win streak.

Huntley lost the first set and trailed 15-7 in the second before rallying for a 21-25, 25-23, 25-22 victory.

“That’s one of the best high school matches I’ve ever coached,” said Michelle Jakubowski, who is in her sixth year running the Huntley program.

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Courtesy of Michelle JakubowskiOutside hitter Sam Boesch of Huntley (Huntley, Ill.) plans to play at Wake Forest next year.
Manning, a 5-foot-8 setter, is one of five key seniors on the team, all of whom are at least second-year starters. The others are 5-8 libero Amy Dion, who committed to Maryland; 5-11 outside hitter Sam Boesch, who is a Wake Forest recruit; 5-9 outside hitter Ashley Smith; and 6-1 middle blocker Jaina Jackson.

The victory over Cary-Grove got national attention and vaulted Huntley to No. 41 in the most recent POWERADE FAB 50 poll.

On Friday, the Huntley Red Raiders (14-0) will make their first-ever appearance at the Asics Challenge at Mother McAuley in Chicago. They will need to slay more giants if they expect to emerge on top of a 24-team field that includes eight other members of the FAB 50.

Here is a quick look at the top teams that will be competing with Huntley in Chicago this weekend:
(Note: Updated on Sept. 29 to reflect Week 4 rankings):

No. 3 Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.): The Bucs won the 2010 Florida state title in five sets over Bishop Moore (Orlando, Fla.), and they won their own Premier tournament this past weekend, beating – who else? – No. 28 Bishop Moore in five sets in the final. Berkeley Prep is off to an 11-0 start.

No. 5 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.): The Rockets (27-1) have won 10 of the past 15 Asics Challenges, never failing to earn the title more than one year in a row. And since Cary-Grove won Asics last year, Assumption may be due for another top prize. Already this year they captured the Durango Fall Classic title in Las Vegas, Nev.

No. 26 Joliet Catholic Academy (Joliet, Ill.): The Hilltoppers went 34-8 last season and finished second at state. They had some injuries earlier this season but are still 13-0. They’re finally healthy and could be a threat.

No. 31 Martin County (Stuart, Fla.): The Tigers (11-1) finished second this past weekend in their own tournament, the East Coast Challenge. They lost 25-22, 25-18 in the final to No. 18 Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).

No. 35 Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.): The tournament hosts won't just lay out the welcome mat. With an 11-2 record, they go from unranked to No. 35 this week.

No. 37 Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.): The Valkyries (21-6) have lost their two matchups against Assumption so far this season but had a good showing in Las Vegas, Nev., where they finished ninth in the 48-team Durango Fall Classic.

No. 38 Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.): The Sailors (15-3) boast top setter Cinnamon Sary. The 5-10 senior committed to Southern Cal, where she will join former Newport teammate Kelly Burnham. In 2009, the duo led Newport to a state title. Last year, the Sailors made it to the state quarterfinals.

No. 39 Marist (Chicago, Ill.): The Red Hawks (16-2) showed their heart in a win over Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.) earlier this month. The Hawks trailed 24-21 in the first set but rallied to win 26-24, 25-18.

National powers set to play

Two volleyball programs that have been outstanding since the moment the schools opened their doors will face off on Oct. 5 in a matchup that will help shape this year’s national championship.

No. 1 Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.), which finished 41-0 and No. 1 in last season’s FAB 50, will visit No. 4 St. James (Lenexa, Kansas).

Both schools are relatively new. Papillion-La Vista South opened in 2003 and finished second at state in 2008 and 2009 before breaking through with its first title last year.

St. James opened in 2005 with all freshmen. They played a junior varsity schedule that first year but showed immediate potential, posting a 35-0 record.

In their first two years playing varsity, St. James went 30-10 and 45-1, reaching the state finals in 2007. The Thunder’s first of three straight state titles came in 2008, and their record since ’07 is an impressive 190-7.

St. James’ top player is 5-7 senior setter Paige Brown, the school’s career leader in assists and an Appalachian State recruit. But the Thunder has no players over 6-1.

Papillion has three players committed to the University of Nebraska: setter Kelly Hunter and the 6-3 Rolfzen twins, Amber and Kadie, who were named ESPNHS Sophomores of the Year last season.
By Walter Villa

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – If you assumed Assumption is the only strong team in Kentucky, you’d be wrong.

Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) won the Durango Fall Classic on Saturday night, but the Rockets’ two state mates at the tournament also had impressive showings.

Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) won the silver championship Saturday, rallying to beat Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.), 22-25, 25-14, 25-21. The silver title was good for an overall finish of ninth place.

The third Kentucky team at Durango this weekend was Notre Dame Academy (Park Hills, Ky.), and the Pandas finished a respectable 15th out of 48.

All three Kentucky teams entered the tournament ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50, with Assumption 13th, Sacred Heart 35thand Notre Dame 46th.

The trio combined to go 9-0 on Friday and 17-4 for the weekend, with three of the losses charged to Notre Dame (4-3). Assumption went 7-0, and Sacred Heart rolled to a 6-1 record in Vegas.

“We’ve been clicking the last couple of weeks or so,” Sacred Heart coach Eric Garvey said. “This was a continuation of us playing well.”

Sacred Heart’s only loss in Vegas was Saturday morning in a round of 16 game against Xavier (Phoenix, Ariz.), 25-18, 25-23. But Garvey’s team regrouped and won three straight, beating Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove, Utah), Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Torrey Pines.

Sacred Heart, which lost just three sets in its seven matches, has another big test on Sept. 25 at Assumption.

“They’re tough,” Garvey said of Assumption. “Their two setters, Katie George and Alexa Filley, are amazing.”

California shows its depth
None of them won the top prize, but three California schools finished in the top four. Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) came in second, followed by Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) and La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.).

Los Alamitos, which entered the tournament ranked seventh in the POWERADE FAB 50 – highest among all the teams at Durango – is now 12-1. It had not lost a set this season until Saturday’s semifinals, when it gave up a 24-21 lead to Marymount.

Los Alamitos came back to beat Marymount but could not sustain that momentum against Assumption.

Champs again, sort of
Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.), which won the 2010 Durango Fall Classic, failed to repeat this year, losing in Friday’s play-in game to Xavier.

But Harvard-Westlake showed character in rebounding to win the competition division championship, good for an overall finish of 25th.

No Ma’a for Kamehameha
Misty Ma’a, a talented 6-foot-1 outside hitter, missed the last three matches for Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) after hurting her right arm diving for a ball.

Ma’a, showing a bruise on her right forearm, appeared to be in pain, although no tests had yet been taken to determine the severity of the injury.

“It’s frustrating to sit out matches,” said Ma’a, who said she did not think the injury was serious.

Even without Ma’a, Kamehameha was impressive, finishing sixth. The Warriors lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinals, falling 27-25, 25-23 to La Costa Canyon.

Green Valley leads Vegas teams
Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.), which had a big showing on Friday, came in 28th, the highest finish for a Vegas-area team in this year’s tournament.

Host Durango came in 45th, just ahead of fellow Vegas-area schools Shadow Ridge (Las Vegas, Nev.), Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) and Foothill (Henderson, Nev.).