Molly Haggerty had herself quite a summer.
Winning AAU gold with the Sports Performance 15 Elite, Haggerty later in August was the youngest member of a U.S. Youth National team that took silver at the FIVB U18 World Championships in Thailand. It was the first medal by the U.S. boys or girls at the youth or junior level.
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"It was really cool," said Haggerty, now a sophomore at St. Francis. "It was fast-paced. Going from club to that was a big, big change. The blocks were huge, so it helped me working off the block. I really developed that skill in club and even more there."
Needless to say, Haggerty casts a rather large presence in the high school setting.
She put down 13 kills -- including a ferocious hit at match point -- and No. 1 St. Francis pulled away in both games to beat No. 17 IC Catholic Prep 25-18, 25-15 in Elmhurst.
Haggerty smiled when asked about being back in the high school game.
"It's kind of slower-paced, but I love it," she said. "We're representing our school here, which is awesome."
IC (7-1, 0-1 Suburban Christian Blue) put up a good fight -- at least for the first half of both games.
Both games were tied 14-14 at one point, and the Knights actually led Game 2 14-12 after a Delaney D'Amore kill.
But an IC serve into the net and hitting error got the ball going the other way, and St. Francis (7-1, 1-0) turned it into an 11-0 run. Haggerty had 4 kills during that decisive stretch, and at match point unleashed a back-row kill that nearly knocked over an IC defender.
"We had a couple breakdowns, and they're going to jump on those," IC coach Jean Field said. "For the most part I thought our girls passed well and were aggressive. That's all you can ask for."
Maddie Haggerty had 7 kills, Natalie Murison 11 assists and Sam Dubiel 19 digs for St. Francis, which played to several long rallies. The Spartans scored the first 3 points of the match, but the Game 1 margin was never again greater than 2 until a Molly Haggerty big kill off a block started a 3-0 run out of a 14-14 tie.
"They're a very good defensive team," St. Francis coach Peg Kopec said of IC. "I thought it was a good defensive match. I thought we played defense very well. People got to see a very good defensive match."
Field noted the difference is St. Francis' ability to attack from all around the net with an array of hitters. Still, her girls held their own. Rory Manion had 5 kills and defensive ace D'Amore 8 digs.
"Rory and Delaney are great back there," Field said. "(St. Francis), they keep putting it back to you. You think you can get it back down, but they throw it back out there. I can't complain."
St. Francis hasn't lost since a season-opening match with Mother McAuley and heads next this weekend to the tough Crossroads Classic in Effingham. And the Spartans aren't near their peak yet, breaking in a sophomore setter in Dani Messa and a freshman hitter in Kamryn Malloy.
"We have plenty of room for growth," Kopec said. "This weekend will be a challenge for us."
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