Marist’s Mallory Salis and Ashley Holder will say the ball didn’t hit the court. Fortunately for them, the referee agreed.
With leading 23-20 in the first game of Tuesday’s volleyball showdown, Mighty Macs outside hitter Sydney McPhillips drilled a shot through the Redhawks’ blockers to the center of the court. All six McAuley players thought the kill was good and huddled together, not noticing that the referee allowed play to go on after Marist’s Deirdre Howard apparently made the dig.
A Marist player free-balled the Redhawks’ third hit over the net and the point went to Marist, bringing the Redhawks within two. Marist would rally to take five of the next six points to win the first game, and the Redhawks pulled away in game two for an improbable 26-24, 25-18 victory before a packed house at McAuley.
“At practice we work a lot on being mentally resilient, mentally tough, so we don’t look at the scoreboard, and when games get close, we fight point for point,” Holder said. “We earn each point until it gets to where we want it to be.”
Marist (6-0) trailed from the start of game one as Mother McAuley’s Lizzy Scanlon put down two kills early to give the Mighty Macs a 7-3 lead. McAuley (3-2) would hold that margin throughout most of the first game, but the momentum swung on Howard’s dig.
Scanlon drilled another kill to give McAuley three match points, but Marist was relentless. Middle hitter Rachel Dalton had two kills in the final five points and Marist clinched the first game on a McAuley hitting error.
The loss in game one seemed to drain the energy out of McAuley. Marist roared out to an 8-3 lead in game two thanks to a couple of kills from outside hitter Kelly Marcinek and never looked back.
“Kelly really stepped up for us and did a great job on the outside,” Holder said.
McAuley tied the game at 13-all on another kill from Scanlon, but Marist responded with five straight points to retake control. Middle hitter Kirsten Ivkovic put down her fifth kill of the night to seal the victory for Marist.
A packed gym with two boisterous student sections didn’t seem to faze either team, but it did make communication on the court a bit more difficult.
“This is probably the loudest crowd I’ve ever been in. They were amazing,” Salis said. “You’re screaming at your teammates, right next to them.”
Scanlon finished with 10 kills to lead Mother McAuley, while Marcinek had seven kills for the Redhawks.
Marist starts play in the Wheaton Classic at Wheaton-Warrenville South on Wednesday, while McAuley travels to St. Francis for another tough test on Thursday.
“They’re a great team. They have an unbelievable defense, their hitters are outstanding,” Salis said of the Mighty Macs. “I love close games like that, I love pressure.”