Baranek: Playoff picks you can put on a (card)board110410/Palos Heights, Illinois Mother McAuley High School volleyball fans state their opinion about SouthtownStar reporter Tony Baranek, who predicted Marist High School would beat McAuley. Marist won. av110410 TIN_marmother_P5 // Art Vassy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 20, 2011 7:49PM
I tried to tell them, but they didn’t believe me. They just didn’t believe me.
It stated right here in this weekly space a year ago Marist was going to beat Mother McAuley in volleyball for the first time in postseason history. Sure enough, it happened.
Of course, I also predicted Marist was going to win state in 2010, and the RedHawks didn’t even get there. But I digress.
It’s a new season. Will there be a Southland state qualifier? Let’s take a look at how things stack up, focusing on the best (my opinion) 20-team field in the state.
How tough is this group? Two conference champions (Bloom and Shepard) couldn’t even crack the top 10 seeds. Richards, a 20-match winner, is No. 10. Of our current Top 10 in the rankings, nine of them are in this sectional. Only one will have a chance to compete at the Hinsdale South Super. Along the way, there will be some super matches.
At the Providence Regional, I’m not going to stick my neck out and say Eisenhower will shock Providence and Shepard will upset Lincoln-Way Central, but they could. Reality, though, tells me Providence, with super setter Krista Brakauskas, will use its hitting depth to emerge as the ultimate winner.
At the T.F. South Regional, we’re looking at a dandy final between Lincoln-Way East and Marist. East is mighty tough with lefty powerhouse Lauren Behrens, and Marist might be tired and distracted from its Arizona trip ... nah, RedHawks in three.
SouthWest Suburban Red champion Lincoln-Way North will be taking a full head of steam into the Crete-Monee Regional. The Phoenix will need it, with Richards waiting in the semis and Sandburg in the final. Beat Richards? Yes. Beat Sandburg? No.
The day after libero Bridget Powell went down with a season-ending injury I’d have said that No. 1 Mother McAuley might have a tough time getting out of the Stagg Regional. But the Macs have shown a toughness worthy of their splendid history. They’ll beat Stagg, which I see surviving a stern challenge from Andrew in the semis.
So far, no real surprises. But here’s one:
There’s something special going on with this Sandburg team. Kara Kentner is an excellent team leader. Dakota Hampton is a massively powerful hitter from the front row and is becoming a defensive machine in the back. The Eagles have hitters galore. They’ll beat Provy in the semis and McAuley in the final, then go on to beat Lyons in the supersectional.
Believe it or not.
Let’s turn to Class 3A. Oak Forest was the Southland rep last season, losing to Payton in the super. They could meet again this year in the Rich East Super, but it’s far from a lock. For one thing, Payton has a roadblock in really, really feisty De La Salle, which is hosting its own sectional.
Oak Forest, meanwhile, is the No. 3 seed at the Marian Catholic Sectional behind the No. 1 Spartans and No. 2 Illiana Christian. Bremen is the No. 4 seed.
Upsets, anyone? I’ll take Queen of Peace to beat Bremen in the Peace Regional and Rich Central to take down Illiana in Olympia Fields. Oak Forest will handle Rich Central in one sectional semi and Marian will beat Peace for the third time this season. I don’t think these Bengals are as strong as last year’s unit, but they’ll beat Marian in the final before falling to De La Salle at Rich East.
What of Lemont? Lincoln-Way West? Both former top-10 teams are at the Joliet Catholic Sectional. West should win the Manteno Regional, but Lemont won’t survive Nazareth. It won’t matter either way. Joliet Catholic’s going to state.
Finally, there’s defending Class 2A state champ Chicago Christian.
These very obviously aren’t the same Knights that took 11 losses (most coming against Class 3A and 4A competitors) into the state playoffs and ran the table against similarly sized opponents. If they do it again, the 17-18 Knights will be the first in IHSA history to do it when entering the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. They’ll make it as far as the Lisle Supersectional.
Wait, one more thing. We’d be remiss to leave out Morgan Park Academy and Seton, which are the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the Class 1A Morgan Park Academy Regional. Kelly Sorfleet will lead Morgan Park Academy over Seton before the road ends at the Westminster Christian Sectional.