Joliet Catholic denies Geneva in title match
Morgan Reardon is the latest in a long line of superlative volleyball players for Joliet Catholic.
In the championship match of the Geneva girls tournament on Saturday, the host Vikings never recovered from her early and often personal onslaughts.
The Loyola-bound outside hitter collected 11 kills in the opening game, including four in a row to set the tone, and added seven more winners in the second game to pace the Angels' seventh consecutive championship of the eight-team tournament.
Geneva managed but a pair of leads, 2-1 on both occasions, as Joliet Catholic (7-1) was never truly tested in five consecutive straight-sets victories.
"We're held to a higher standard at JCA," Reardon said after her 18 kills were seven greater than Geneva could muster as a team in the Angels' 25-15 and 25-12 sweep. "Everyone aspires to be on one of those teams with a (state-championship) banner on the wall at school."
The Reardon performance capped a bookend of exceptional individual talents Geneva has encountered this week after opening the season against West Aurora superstar Lauren Carlini.
Geneva coach KC Johnsen could only shake his head after being on the wrong end of another electrifying demonstration of athleticism and poise.
"I'm just going to be glad when Carlini is at Wisconsin," Johnsen said. "(Reardon) took it to us pretty well. I think of what kind of goes most unnoticed about (Joliet Catholic) is their defense. I like defense."
Geneva (3-4) had to fight tooth and nail to reach the championship match.
The Vikings opened pool play with victories over IMSA and Morris, only to have Burlington Central create a three-way tie for first with consecutive 25-22 verdicts.
The Vikings won the tiebreaker and earned the right to face DeKalb in the semifinals.
Joliet Catholic dispatched a valiant Burlington Central squad in the other semifinal, 25-10 and 25-22.
"I feel like we kind of came in and found our energy," said Central offensive leader Lexie Bouza. "We played (much better) against Joliet Catholic in the second game. I feel like we came in and found our energy."
The Rockets, who dropped the third-place match to DeKalb (9-2) by identical scores of 25-22, faced an early second-game disadvantage against Joliet Catholic.
But Bouza, with Allie O'Reilly providing emotional leadership from her libero position and Lauren Wiltsie not backing down from the Angels' formidable front row, keyed the Rockets' critical runs throughout the latter stages of the game.
But Central could never climb out of its early hole.
The Rockets closed to within two on four separate occasions and the deficit was a mere point, 22-23, after a Joliet Catholic net violation.
But Joliet Catholic sided out and received yet another kill from its veteran crew to seal the win.
Central is still without the services of four-year starter Hannah Yoder, who was sidelined in warm-ups during the season opener with Hampshire last week.
"I really wish I could be playing with them," said Yoder, who is wearing a walking boot to stabilize her right ankle. "It's my favorite part of the school year, volleyball season."
With its pair of razor-thin losses to DeKalb, Central fell to 4-4 on the year.
Central eased past IMSA in its opener before falling to Morris by scores of 21-25 and 25-27.
O'Reilly had 64 digs on the day for the Rockets, while Bouza had 36 kills, 34 digs and 5 aces. Wiltsie added 17 kills and 35 digs, Jess Emrich had 48 assists and Makenna Jensen had 11 kills and 11 blocks. Karrington Bell pitched in with 28 digs.
The Geneva and Joliet Catholic wins set the stage for a climatic championship match.
But it was never very close thanks to the unstoppable play of Reardon.
"In the last match we couldn't get to that No. 9 (Reardon) for Joliet Catholic," Geneva senior Hannah Buck said. "She was hitting over the block."
Taylor Marmitt led Geneva against Joliet Catholic with 5 kills.
Batavia bounced back to take fifth place after dropping its first two matches.
Aurora Central Catholic and IMSA fell victim to the Bulldogs in the third and fourth matches; Batavia then sped by Morris, 25-20 and 25-12, to improve to 9-5 overall.
"We knew we had to come out hard in the final match," said Batavia senior middle Kristen Koncelik, who paced the Bulldogs' win over Morris with 10 kills. "We have played a lot of competitive matches this season."
Aurora Central (7-5) turned back IMSA in the seventh-place match for its lone win.
"We look at these tournaments as an opportunity to get better," ACC coach Jeanne Czipri said.