St Edward claims regional championship
Updated: October 27, 2011 9:46PM
St. Edward senior Katie Ayello provides constant inspiration for teammates by playing with two broken finger bones she suffered three weeks ago.
In Thursday’s finals of the South Beloit Class 2A Regional against Rockford Lutheran, Ayello found another way to give her team a boost. The 5-foot-5 setter got up over the net and put down a kill on a block to wake the Green Wave out of an early funk. From there, St. Edward went on to a 25-23, 25-15 victory for its ninth regional title since 1999 and first since 2008.
“Especially with her broken fingers and everything, it just really fired us up,” said St. Edward sophomore hitter Katie Swanson.
The Green Wave moves on to play in the Winnebago Sectional at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Lena-Winslow.
Ayello did what she normally does Thursday — piling up 14 assists — and Swanson benefited from some of those for a team-high eight kills. But the Green Wave seemed to sputter at the outset from either a case of the regional final nerves or possibly paralysis by analysis.
“I think they were a little nervous, and we scouted (Lutheran) so much and I know so much about that team that I was hoping that we hadn’t overcoached them,” St. Edward coach Jaime Dovichi said. “They were kind of overworried about where everyone was on the court instead of going out and playing.”
The result was a 9-5 deficit in the first game against second-seeded Lutheran. But Ayello’s stuff block in the middle of the net kicked off a 12-3 run that gave St. Edward a 17-12 advantage. After the block, points seemed to come easier.
“It felt awesome,” Ayello said of the kill. “When we get a big point like that it gets everybody pumped up and it just gets everybody together and ready to play volleyball.”
Lutheran was hardly finished then, as hitter Sam Rundblade kept the Crusaders close and they tied it at 23 on her kill and an ace by Dakotah Hazelwood. However, Hazelwood’s net serve broke the tie and Swanson’s hard serve resulted in a receiving error for the final Wave point.
Swanson then started the second game on fire with four of the first seven Green Wave points on kills. St. Edward enjoyed a 6-0 lead before Lutheran rallied to tie at 10 for the last time. Then Callie Johnson’s kill and ace, and a kill by Sarah Norman ignited a 6-0 run that put St. Edward ahead for good, 16-10.
“I think it was just we had more momentum from the first game,” Swanson said. “We just used that to keep on going in the second game.”
St. Edward (21-13) put the match away with a 7-2 run that included two kills by Norman and Swanson’s stuff kill of Hazelwood.
Throughout the match, the Green Wave served tough. With four aces and three free balls off hard serves that resulted in easy points, St. Edward’s serving proved critical.
“We were serving aggressively,” Dovichi said. “It’s tough when we serve to their hitters a lot. It takes their hitters out of their offense.”
Norman had six kills and Johnson four, while Allison Kruk contributed 17 digs.
In a manner of speaking, St. Edward righted a wrong with the victory. The five regional coaches from the Rockford area had essentially ganged up in seeding to put the Wave fifth out of six teams. It’s become common for them to face this when the IHSA sends them west for regional play. The Green Wave had to play an extra match and beat the fourth seed, the first seed and the second seed.
“We still have got to beat everyone in the regional,” Dovichi said.