Maddie Haggerty and St. Francis could use some rest.
An afternoon at the Asics Challenge is anything but a siesta.
Haggerty, affected by a blister on her foot, is one of several banged-up Spartans. Competing in Saturday’s Gold playoffs in the 26th annual event at Mother McAuley, No. 2 St. Francis dropped three-set matches to Marist and Joliet Catholic before beating Huntley 25-9, 25-20 for seventh place.
St. Francis coach Peg Kopec wasn’t about to use injuries as a crutch. Still, though, it was an inopportune time to be at less than 100 percent.
“I’m not blaming anything on (injuries). We won that last match without Maddie, which was good,” Kopec said. “Anytime you can go 3-2 at the Challenge in the Gold, I don’t have a problem with that.”
In the championship match Assumption (Ky.), ranked No. 3 nationally, according to PrepVolleyball.com, defeated Notre Dame (Ky.) 25-14, 25-16 for its 12th Asics title in 17 years.
Maddie Haggerty first developed a swollen tendon on her foot the weekend prior, and she missed two earlier matches this week with a large blister. She admitted it was painful to play through, but with rest, medication and a gel she anticipates she’ll be fine.
“I think it just came from overplaying,” Haggerty said. “It affected my shots a little bit.”
Haggerty was held out of the Huntley match, but her teammates more than picked up the slack. Michelle McLaughlin had 8 kills and 7 digs, Maddie’s freshman sister Molly Haggerty 7 kills and 4 blocks, Sam Dubiel 5 digs and 4 aces and McKenna Kelsay 18 assists.
St. Francis was in control throughout — only trailing at two points — ending the day on an uptick.
“This tournament was tough, but that was a big win,” Molly Haggerty said. “I think this experience of playing hard teams is really going to help down the road.”
Huntley was the surprise story of Friday pool play.
The young Red Raiders, seeded 22nd out of 24 teams with the worst record of the teams playing at the Asics, stunned nationally ranked Lone Peak (Utah) 25-17, 25-20 to make the Gold playoffs.
On Saturday Huntley (7-10) dropped a 25-17, 25-17 decision to Notre Dame Academy (Ky.) and lost to Pius XI (Wisc.) 25-10, 25-17 before falling to St. Francis. Matching up against the best still was what Huntley coach Karen Liss hoped for.
“This was a great opportunity for us to see some of the best of the best,” Liss said. “Our goal this whole season is playing consistent and we showed Friday night playing consistent minimizing errors what we could do. When that doesn’t we struggle against teams like St. Francis. You can’t give a team like that four or five points and expect to come back. They’re too good.”
Liss noted that her team’s serve-receive was flawless Friday and thought outsides Emily Westermeyer and Erin Lyman played consistently all weekend.
“We passed on system and we could run our fast offense,” Liss said. “We are a fast team. We’re not a team that’s going to bounce balls and throw them down; we’re not that big. But offensively we spread it out and run a fast offense. Last night our opponents didn’t know where the ball was going.”
St. Francis (24-5), seeded fifth, started strong against fourth-seeded Marist, running out to an early 5-0 lead in the first set behind two Maddie Haggerty kills and a McLaughlin kill. The Spartans held off a Marist comeback, Maddie Haggerty’s kill on set point, but couldn’t maintain their momentum. Marist’s 22-25, 25-13, 25-15 win matched the RedHawks’ three-set win over St. Francis at the Rich East Invite the Saturday before.
In fact with Joliet Catholic later beating St. Francis 25-17, 23-25, 25-17, it was the Spartans’ fifth loss in three sets this season.
Kopec has juggled a plethora of lineups, and for the first time Friday had Kelsay hit three rotations with Natalie Murison setting. Kelsay was the Spartans’ kill leader in Friday pool play, but the Spartans switched back to their usual 5-1 formation later Saturday with Kelsay setting six rotations. No guarantee what’s in store.
“We’re still trying to figure out positions on our team, we’re trying different combinations,” Maddie Haggerty said. “But I think we’re starting to see what’s working best and getting used to each other.”
The Spartans seemed a step slow against Marist and JCA, and blocking continued to be an issue. The blocks did perk up against Huntley.
“A little hesitation, not anticipating,” Kopec said. “Whatever we think might work we’ll use. Hopefully this tapers us a little bit, we’ll get well and be energized and ready to go for the playoffs.”
Cary-Grove, the 2010 Asics champion, beat Lone Peak 25-16, 25-15 in the first match of Silver playoffs play Saturday, then dropped a 21-25, 25-7, 28-26 decision to Catholic Memorial (Wis.) and lost to Stagg 25-21, 23-25, 29-27.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.