By Ryan Gierhahn ‘23
The Mother McAuley volleyball team entered the 2022 season with a chip on their shoulder. The Macs had fallen just short of a legendary run in 2021, losing a heartbreaker to Metea Valley in the final set of the 4A state championship game.
Being so close to victory obviously had an effect on the players; but instead of reminiscing about the loss, they were determined to get back to work and earn another shot at the title.
Senior middle Maeve Moonan said, “The moment this season started my team and I wanted nothing more than to get back down to Redbird Arena and finish what we started last year.”
The team was given one of the toughest schedules in Illinois, and made a statement in the regular season by only losing three games. They won multiple tournaments and beat some of the best teams in the country from states like North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and more. The Macs also went undefeated in conference play, winning the GCAC with ease.
They started the playoffs beating Argo and Lane Tech in the Regional; and after defeating Oak Park-River Forest in the first game of sectionals, a rematch with rival Marist was next.
The Redhawks had upset McAuley 2-0 earlier in the season, so now was their chance to get back at them. After losing the first set, the Macs battled back and defeated Marist in an intense, action-packed game to keep their season alive.
Mother McAuley proceeded to beat Joliet West favorably in the Super-Sectional round, and punched their ticket to the IHSA State Championships for the second season in a row. After waiting an entire year to get back, it was finally time to finish the job.
The Macs were matched up against a talented St. Charles East team in the semi-finals. They lost the first set, but were able to battle back again and get another come-from-behind victory to advance.
All the work the team put in this season had led them to this game. McAuley’s final test would be Benet Academy, and it definitely would not be an easy one. Benet entered the game with a 37-4 record and was coming off an impressive semi-final win against Barrington, a team that defeated McAuley earlier in the year.
The game was a nail-biter and went into the third set; but McAuley was able to pull away in the end and secure themselves a 4A State Championship.
Senior Libero Gigi Navarette said, “After winning the state championship I had no words. We had an amazing season with a lot of big wins against nationally ranked teams so winning state was the best ending to this awesome season.”
The Macs finished the season 39-3 and #1 in Illinois. This marks the program’s 16th state title and first since 2016.