In its first trip to the 15th annual Wheaton Classic, the Lyons Township High School girls volleyball team nearly pulled off an impressive trifecta on Sept. 17.
The Lions reached the championship game in the powerful 24-team field but lost to Benet Academy 17-25, 26-24, 25-10 after winning 25-17, 20-25, 28-26 in the semifinals over third-place Marist and 28-26, 25-23 in the quarterfinals over Metea Valley.
LTHS (15-3, 2-0 in West Suburban Silver) was eliminated by Marist in last year’s IHSA Class 4A sectional semifinals. Metea is the defending Class 4A state champion.
“We had something to redeem ourselves from in the first two [matches],” LTHS senior Grace Brennan said. “I think we had a lot of accomplishments just earlier in the day and maybe we were kind of ahead of ourselves (against Benet). No matter how that last game went, we were still happy where we ended up.”
LTHS senior Kamryn Lee-Caracci and junior Abby Markworth were named to the all-tournament team.
Lee-Caracci (11 kills, 3 blocks), and Markworth (23 assists, 8 digs, 7 service points) were top contributors against Benet (15-1) as well as Brennan (12 kills, 5 digs), Kiley Mahoney (14 digs), Maggie Kachmarik (9 digs, 7 service points), Grace Turner (3 kills) and Katie Debs (2 blocks).
“I was so proud of the way we played throughout the day and even within our first and second sets [in the final],” LTHS coach Jill Bober said. “We knew that we’d be here playing with the big dogs and it’s fun to compete against them.”
The Lions nearly won the title. They trailed 15-9 in the second set but created ties at 20, 22 and 24 before back-to-back Benet kills forced the third set.
LTHS led the final set 5-4 on a Markworth ace and then quickly fell behind 13-6. Benet scored the last eight points.
“I’m sure watching film [our players will] say we ran out of gas,” Bober said.
“The first two [matches] were really intense. I feel like in the third game we put up a fight, but the motivation was lacking,” Mahoney said.
Brennan and libero Mahoney are returning starters who are making even more contributions this season.
“This year I just had to take it upon myself to be a scorer, and it’s just different when you’re not scoring for yourself and you think about scoring for the team,” Brennan said.
“I feel like one of the key aspects of volleyball is trying to get the ball up. You’re just trying to keep the ball in system, in play,” Mahoney said. “It’s more for the team to keep playing than yourself having the dig.”
The Lions won both pool games on Sept. 14 against teams that went undefeated on Sept. 17 – 25-17, 19-25, 25-11 over Silver bracket champion IC Catholic Prep and 28-26, 25-17 over Bronze bracket champion Oswego East.