There was no disguising what happened when Sandburg and Mother McAuley met earlier this season in the semifinals of the Rich East Invitational.
“They took it to us,” Sandburg coach David Vales said of the 25-18, 25-16 loss. “We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game, obviously, if we want to beat them.”
The opportunity will be there Tuesday, when the two teams meet again in the first of two semfinal matches in the Class 4A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional.
The 6 p.m. battle between the No. 1 Mighty Macs (32-4) and No. 2 Eagles (29-8) is to be followed in the other semifinal by No. 4 Lincoln-Way Central (29-8) and No. 3. Stagg (31-6).
Sandburg is coming in off of a strong stretch in which the Eagles won the Maine West Pumpkin Tournament, clinched the SouthWest Suburban Blue title in a showdown against Lincoln-Way Central, and captured the Eisenhower Regional with a powerful 25-9, 25-17 performance against Lincoln-Way East in which Paige Bendell dominated with 11 assists, eight kills and six digs.
“Winning in two against [Lincoln-Way] Central was a nice confidence-booster,” Vales said. “And after that the regional championship... yeah, it seems like we’re playing well. We just want to keep it going.”
Mother McAuley recovered from a stunning loss to St. Ignatius in the GCAC Red Division title match to dominate in the Homewood-Flossmoor regional, Ryan DeJarld putting down 10 kills in the title match win over the host Vikings.
“We’re definitely much improved from our little slump that we had, and thank God for that,” Mighty Macs coach Jen DeJarld said. “You know, you can’t keep climbing uphill. There are times you have to come down, and there are times you have to climb up again.
“We peaked around the (Asics) Challenge, then we came down from that little bit. And now, at the right time, we’re peaking again. It took a lot of tough practices to work it out last week, and the kids feel very confident right now. I’ve never seen them play with more energy, so I’m happy to see that progression.”
Lincoln-Way Central and Stagg both had major battles in their regional finals, with Lincoln-Way Central defeating Marist 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, and Stagg outlasting Marian Catholic 27-29, 25-23, 25-21.
The two teams haven’t met this season.
“I think it’ll be a great match,” Lincoln-Way Central coach Kathy Sulkowski said. “Both teams are defensively scrappy, and we each have some big hitters. Any match at this point of the season is going to be a battle. We’re prepared for it.”
Getting Lincoln-Way Central as a sectional foe was not exactly what Stagg coach Deanna Storino was expecting.
“I did not,” she said, chuckling. “I have a bunch of scouting stuff and video on Marist, but I did not have a whole lot on Lincoln-Way Central. But there is only so much scouting will do for you. I don’t think having a scouting report or a tape will guaranteee you anything.”
Following a two-game win in regional play over De La Salle, Oak Lawn (25-7) is competing at the Class 4A Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. The Spartans will be trying to upset No. 1 seed Hinsdale South. St. Ignatius and Hinsdale Central square off in the other semifinal.
Lemont (25-12), which shocked Lockport in the regional title match at Romeoville, is to play Plainfield North in the Class 4A Neuqua Valley Sectional. The other matchup pits Benet against West Aurora.
In Class 3A, Chicago Christian (22-15) and Ag. Science (19-6) will go head to head in the Rich East Sectional semifinals. Illiana Christian (20-16) is to play Bremen in the later match.
In Class 1A, Morgan Park Academy (21-9) and Luther North are to play in the first semifinal at the Harvest Christian Academy. Chicagoland Jewish and the host school are scheduled in the second match.