Nazareth Academy’s girls volleyball team celebrates the school’s first ever state title in the sport following the Roadrunners’ three-set victory over Belvidere in Bloomington on Nov. 13. | BILL STONE/Contributor

Senior Ivy Schoditsch’s celebration with the Nazareth Academy girls volleyball Class 3A state champions on Nov. 13 became ever more memorable and surprising.

Among the fans emerged Schoditsch’s brother, Nate. The Riverside-Brookfield High School graduate who lives in Chicago made an unannounced trip to Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal.

“I didn’t know he was coming so it was awesome,” said Schoditsch, who lives in LaGrange Park. “I saw him in the stands after the game and he was like, ‘Yeah!’ He’s one of my biggest supporters. That was super nice.” 

The Roadrunners made history as the school’s first girls sports team to capture a state championship. They outlasted Belvidere North 25-18, 20-25, 25-21 after trailing 13-7 in the third set.

Nazareth’s football team has captured three state championships. The girls basketball team was second in Class 3A in 2018.

“It’s just a great feeling. It’s crazy that we made history,” senior libero Gill Grimes said. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to do this, and just doing it with the best team and my best friends, it feels great.” 

The Roadrunners (30-7) boasted a lineup with five college-bound players – Grimes (Michigan State), Schoditsch (Ferris State), seniors Katie Hurta (Indiana) and Abby Reid (Penn) and junior Kitty Sandt (Clemson). Sophomores Lauren Salata and Olivia Austin and junior Emily Risley also played in the victory.

Grimes, Schoditsch, Hurta and Sandt were the only returnees from the volleyball team’s first downstate berth in 2019, which earned third in 3A. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there was no 2020 state tournament.

“Ever since that day we took third place, we were so excited to make history but we weren’t satisfied,” Schoditsch said. 

“There’s nothing to say about our team other than that was pure heart. I think Belvidere gave us everything they had,” said Nazareth coach Melissa Masterson. “It was probably a moment I’ll never forget as a coach. I’m sure these players, winning that, is something they’ll never forget either.”

Grimes had a career-best 35 digs and finishes with a school-record 1,602. Nazareth needed a single-match season-high 75 digs with 15 from Salata, eight by Hurta and Sandt and seven from Reid.

Hurta delivered 15 kills with just one error to surpass 1,000 for her career that includes her freshman season at Lyons Township High School. Other key contributions were from Sandt (16 assists, 8 kills), Schoditsch (4 blocks, 3 kills) and Salata (3 kills).

With the Roadrunners trailing 12-6 in the third set, Masterson used her final timeout. 

Behind four straight points and three straight Hurta kills, they closed to 13-11. Grimes’ four-point serving streak gave them the lead for good at 16-14. 

Nazareth gained its first match point at 24-19 and won on attack errors by the Blue Thunder (39-3).

“Match point is the moment we’ve all been waiting for and working for. [Winning] was the most amazing feeling,” Schoditsch said. “I’m so grateful for this team so to be able to share that with them was just something I’ll never forget and always cherish.”