Girls Volleyball: Battle tested Mother McAuley ready for challenge

Story Image Kelly Clarke, of Mother McAuley, spikes the ball over the reach of Hinsdale Central's Claire Cornell for the super sectional title at Mother McAuley, Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 in Chicago, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: November 8, 2012 12:14PM

The record — 38-1 — is pretty daunting.

The schedule, eh, not so much.

Although New Trier hasn’t played nearly the amount of stellar teams Mother McAuley has in 2012, Mighty Macs coach Jen DeJarld isn’t looking at Friday’s Class 4A state semifinal at Redbird Arena as merely a warmup for a possible winner-take-all state title showdown against Benet.

“I know their setter (Taylor Tashima) very well just from playing her in club,” DeJarld said. “She’s a lefty, committed to Northwestern as a sophomore. She’s a stud. Their middle (Haley Fauntleroy) is going to Virginia. She’s very good.

“We’re going to have to focus on what we need to do on our end. If we do we should take care of business. But you never know.”

The 6-foot Tashima is a major threat around the net, totaling 632 assists, 164 kills and 41 blocks. The 6-3 Fauntleroy has 133 kills and 62 blocks.

New Trier and McAuley haven’t been in any common tournaments. The Trevians competed at the Lyons Invitational, losing to the host Lions in three sets. McAuley beat Lyons in three sets Oct. 17.

While New Trier’s record is better than McAuley’s 35-4, strength of schedule should favor the Macs.

“Every team that’s down (at state) is going to be a good team,” senior Michelle Konecki said. “Everyone wants to win state at this point. We’re definitely not overlooking them. We’re pretty excited.”

The final stepping stone for McAuley in getting to Friday’s semifinal was an impressive 25-17, 25-15 supersectional win at home Saturday against Hinsdale Central.

The first? DeJarld might as well have started her answer with “Once upon a time … ”

It was way back when, less than a week after McAuley lost to Marist in a sectional final a year ago.

“The kids started training — lifting, and jump-training,” DeJarld said. “I remember the juniors picking up the freshmen. I know my own daughter was picked up by Michelle and Kelly (Clarke).

“They trained three or four days a week for a year. Just besides club. Just personally. Because that (a playoff loss) was never going to happen again.”

The road had a few speed bumps, including a late-season malaise that had some sloppy wins, a tough loss to Benet in the championship at the Autumnfest Classic and a jarring loss to St. Ignatius in what would be the final GCAC Red title match (the tournament will be discontinued).

At that point, DeJarld had seen enough.

“Against St. Ignatius it just didn’t look like we had any heart,” DeJarld said. “It looked like we were just going through the motions. We just weren’t in sync. That happens.

“The following week, we just worked it out of them. Seriously, that Monday we had one heck of a practice. Physically and emotionally I worked them pretty hard. About a week later one of the other parents said that her daughter came home and said, ‘Mom, that was the best practice. It was exactly what we needed.’ ”

The Macs regrouped. They survived a classic challenge from Sandburg in a sectional semifinal before dominating against Stagg in the sectional final and Hinsdale Central in the super.

For the first time since 2008, they have arrived.

“We love the pressure,” sophomore Ryann DeJarld said. “This particular group of girls, we know how to win. Together, we’ve got what it takes.”

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