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La Salle-Peru senior Katie Olson (sitting, left) addresses the media with a smile with the team’s Class 3A state runner-up trophy sitting next to her. Teammates Taylor Gibson (seated, right) and (standing left to right) Shana Puetz, Abbey Lauer and Allison Korsan listen to her answer after the Lady Cavaliers’ lost 25-19, 25-7 to Wheaton St. Francis on Saturday in the Class 3A state title match at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
St. Francis sophomore Molly Haggerty (No. 40) hits the ball past La Salle-Peru’s Cierra Johnson (left) and Rachel Hunt during the Lady Cavaliers’ 25-19, 25-7 loss Saturday in the Class 3A state title match at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
NORMAL — “Enjoy this ladies,” La Salle-Peru volleyball coach Mark Haberkorn said to his players Saturday night as they shuffled into the post-match press conference.
It was a simple reminder to appreciate the magnitude of what they accomplished.
Just a little while before, the Lady Cavaliers hoisted the IHSA Class 3A state runner-up trophy after losing 25-19, 25-7 to Wheaton St. Francis in the state championship match at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena.
“We just had a fantastic season this year,” Haberkorn said. “It was a great run from start to finish. These girls have been playing a high level of volleyball. A lot of that is attributed to our seniors and their leadership. We have great chemistry on our team. I’m very elated and excited to finish second in the state.”
It is the highest place ever for L-P’s volleyball program and matches the best finish ever by any of the school’s programs, joining the 1977-79 football teams, the 2011 softball team and the 2012 baseball team.
“It’s exciting to be in the championship game knowing you were so close to coming in first,” L-P senior Katie Olson said. “Second is not bad. It’s a great experience to know this is the first time it’s ever been done for your school.”
The Lady Cavs showed early they were capable of hanging with one of the state’s elite programs.
L-P sophomore Taylor Gibson put down a kill on the second volley to tie the match, and while the Lady Cavs never led, they forced four ties and never trailed by more than four points until the Spartans pulled away late.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Olson said. “We had a lot of good passes so I could move around the ball so (our hitters) would have one-on-one blocks. We were so close. It just kind of fell apart at the end and we didn’t finish.”
Down 19-18, Olson served it out of bounds and the Spartans went on a 6-1 run to close the set, capping it with a kill by sophomore Molly Haggerty.
“We started slow but we were able to regroup and play real good volleyball,” Haberkorn said. “We were back and forth, back and forth. It was 19-18 then we made a few mistakes down the stretch. We played with St. Francis real well.”
The second set was a different story as the Spartans jumped out to an 8-1 lead and cruised to their second state title in a row and 10th in program history.
“I think we had a lot of energy and we were motivated (in the first set),” Gibson said. “The second game, since we lost (the first), it was a little bit of a letdown and we started giving up every time we lost a point.”
The Lady Cavs caused some of their own problems in the second set as they had four errors and a net violation during St. Francis’ opening surge.
“Game 2 we struggled with serve-receive,” Haberkorn said. “We had a hard time getting into our offense. When you can’t get the pass, it makes it very easy for St. Francis. They are an exceptional team.”
Haggerty hurt the Lady Cavs all match as she put down a match-best seven kills, including the final point of the match.
“She just was hitting around our blocks and we just weren’t there,” L-P senior libero Abby Turczyn said. “I know everyone on the team gave it their all, but it just didn’t happen tonight. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”
The Lady Cavs finish the season at 35-4, which ties for the second most wins in program history.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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