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updated: 8/30/2012 6:03 PM

Haggerty already feeling comfortable in St. Francis blue

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  • Maddie Haggerty helped Benet win a state championship last season before transferring to St. Francis for this season.

      Maddie Haggerty helped Benet win a state championship last season before transferring to St. Francis for this season.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer


Maddie Haggerty still has a closet full of old Benet shirts.

But there is no doubt where her heart and home are now. The switch from Redwings red to Spartans blue has her feeling anything but blue.

"I actually thought it would be pretty hard getting used to the new school, coming to St. Francis from Benet," Haggerty said. "But once I got here I loved it. Everybody is really supportive. I caught on quick."

Haggerty's move was the hot news of the volleyball off-season. In the spring it was revealed that she was leaving Benet to transfer to St. Francis this fall.

It made perfect practical sense. Maddie's younger sister Molly wasn't coming to Benet, instead enrolling as a freshman at St. Francis this fall.

The Haggertys weren't going to send two daughters to two different schools and miss half their matches. Maddie can't even imagine that scenario. She did, after all, just finish spending two years at Benet with older sister Meghan.

It's nice to have family around.

"Going to high school with Meghan helped me so much," Maddie said. "I wouldn't want Molly to be alone."

The motivations for the move were nothing like LeBron James' famous "Decision" in the summer of 2010 to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. But it does create a similar shifting of the balance of power in the immediate girls volleyball world.

Benet, which Maddie helped lead to its first state title as a sophomore last fall, went from being a possible favorite to repeat in Class 4A to being just another very good 4A team. Nobody is picking against St. Francis in 3A now. Not with the addition of Maddie, maybe the best outside hitter in the state, and Molly, perhaps the best freshman.

It's a 180-degree turn in expectations at St. Francis from a year ago.

Last year, after the graduations of stars like Kelsey Robinson, Meg Vonderhaar and Kristen Kelsay, few were talking about St. Francis. Some media didn't even have the Spartans ranked. Nobody expected St. Francis to get to state, which the Spartans did, taking third.

Getting to state seems to be a given now. Clear the trophy case for a ninth championship trophy, right?

St. Francis senior McKenna Kelsay and her friends aren't hearing that kind of talk. It is, after all, only August.

"We have a lot of talent, but it's not going to just come to us. We realize that we still have to work for it," Kelsay said. "It's good to hear that people have confidence in us, but we're not going to let it get to our heads."

Kelsay was as surprised as anybody at news that the Haggertys were coming to St. Francis. It was great news, though. Kelsay and Maddie Haggerty played club together at Sports Performance as eighth-graders. The two families have known each other for some time, through the older sisters.

"I had never even thought about Maddie coming here," Kelsay said. "When I heard the news I was like, 'Cool,' I was excited. She's actually one of my better friends."

Kelsay is one of many Spartans Maddie Haggerty has been club teammates with. Needless to say, no introductions were necessary when Maddie walked into the Wheaton gym.

"We clicked instantly," Maddie said.

Every year the St. Francis girls come up with a motto for the year and make a poster out of it.

This year's, inspired by the theme from the book and movie "The Hunger Games" is "May the Odds Be Ever in your Favor."

Odds are pretty good with these Spartans.

If there's pressure, the newest Spartan is more than comfortable with it.

"We all handle pressure pretty well," Haggerty said. "We don't think much about it; we just play. Without expectations it's just not as fun."

Follow me...

Like my colleague Kevin Schmit, I have joined the Twitter world this fall.

For those wanting to keep up on the latest in high school volleyball, with a little bit of football mixed in, you can follow me on Twitter @jwelge96. In addition to news and observations on the latest happenings in volleyball and football (maybe a little pro sports mixed in), I'll be tweeting updated scores from the football games and volleyball matches I cover.

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