Girls Volleyball: Healthy Meghan McDowell enjoyed Hinsdale Central’s playoffs push

Story Image Meghan McDowell, of Hinsdale Central, sets the ball against Mother McAuley for the super sectional title at Mother McAuley, Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 in Chicago, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

Updated: November 5, 2012 6:56PM

Meghan McDowell believes the most gratifying thing about her final season at Hinsdale Central was the ability to play every match.

That wasn’t the case last season. The 6-foot-4 senior setter’s health then was in doubt at the beginning of this season when she injured her left ankle near the end of the summer. McDowell missed the first few days of tryouts in August, but the three-year varsity player’s spot on the team was never in doubt.

Her high school career ended Saturday with a 25-17, 25-15 loss to Mother McAuley (35-4) at the Class 4A McAuley Supersectional in Chicago. The Red Devils’ season was supposed to end much earlier in the playoffs after finishing the regular season 15 games below .500.

In their warmup for the postseason, the Devils went 2-3 and placed eighth at the Lyons tournament Oct. 19-20.

But the Devils (14-26) revived in the playoffs behind senior starters such as the Virginia-bound McDowell, libero Rachael Lenderman, outside hitter Coco Bergdoll and middle hitter Dominique Millette.

“It’s so amazing to come out this year and be so healthy,” said McDowell. “I was able to play hard and not have restrictions.”

The Devils went 20-18 last season after McDowell re-injured her right ankle six matches in the season and missed the remainder of the year. Her ankle also forced her to sit out part of the club season with Sports Performance in 2011.

As a freshman, McDowell was steered toward Sports Performance by older teammates such as Ally Davis (Michigan), libero Jamie Netsingha (Cincinnati) and outside hitter Natalie Skiba (Northeastern). The club program spits out loads of Division I volleyball players each season. Among them is the Chicago area’s top setter, Wisconsin-bound Lauren Carlini of West Aurora.

“Playing with that program completely changed by life,” McDowell said. “Before I met them, volleyball was something I did for fun. I saw how good they were.”

Hinsdale Central this season won its first sectional since 1977 by beating Hinsdale South in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional final Nov. 1.

“In the postseason, it’s do or die, you’re out,” McDowell said. “We didn’t want to lose.”

McDowell now leaves the Devils in the hands of skilled sophomores such as setter Brooke Istvan, middle Claire Cornell and outside hitter Lauren Fuller. The Devils did not start any juniors this season.

One more sophomore to keep an eye on is Davis’ younger sister, Alex, a defensive specialist who came off the bench in the second half of the season.

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