Girls Volleyball: Chicago Christian falls in 2A finalChicago Christian's Celaine Haan hugs teammate Annika Evenhouse after the Knights took second place to Quincy Notre Dame during their class 2A state championship volleyball game at Redbird Arena in Normal, IL Saturday, November 12, 2011. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 12, 2011 4:54PM
NORMAL — Chicago Christian coach James Garcia was speaking for himself. But he could have been speaking for everyone cheering the Knights on in Saturday’s Class 2A championship match against Quincy Notre Dame.
“Wow,” he said after a stunning 21-25, 26-24, 25-21 loss. “I didn’t expect that to happen.”
The Knights were trying to win the school’s second consecutive state title.
They also were trying to become the first team in IHSA history to enter the state playoffs with a below-.500 record and win it all.
And they had it. They were right there, up 24-22 in Game 2. All they needed was one more kill, or one more block, or one more ace.
Notre Dame refused to fall.
“Quincy played a great match,” Garcia said. “We had our chances to put that second game away and didn’t capitalize. It’s a game of mistakes ... and today it just didn’t happen for us.”
Becky DeRuiter finished with 10 kills, Emily Lindemulder nine kills and five blocks, Maggie Kamp eight kills and 14 digs, Emily Workman 24 assists and Celaine Haan 14 digs for Chicago Christian (23-19).
Notre Dame (28-9) was led by Cassidy Foley (12 kills), Shannon Foley (29 digs) and Kristen Gengenbacher (28 assists).
Before it all got away, Chicago Christian played with a champion’s swagger.
Down 19-18 in a back-and-forth Game 1, the Knights got back into a tie via a kill by Lindemulder and never looked back. Lindemulder, who accounted for a handful of key points in Friday’s semifinal victory over Breese Central, finished it up with an ace.
Workman and DeRuiter both had kills during a 4-1 run to start Game 2. The Knights seemed comfortable allowing the Lady Raiders to close to within a point or two, or even tie it up, and then putting the ball down to rebuild an edge.
That’s what happened at 22-22 when DeRuiter put down a set from Workman. She then doubled her pleasure on the next volley.
In a do-or-die situation, Notre Dame senior Gracie Barnes put down a kill. Still at championship point for Chicago Christian, Barnes’ teammate Maty Waterkotte won a battle at the net and dropped the ball over to tie it up.
“A net play like that, it can go either way,” Garcia said. “Too many hands are involved. Girls are jumping, trying to be aggressive, and it can go either way.
“At that point in the game we were doing our best, trying our hardest to put a block down. Unfortunately the ball ended up on our side.”
A kill and a service ace later, Notre Dame had new life. In Game 3, the tempo changed considerably, as the Lady Raiders began to, if not dominate, then maintain an upper hand.
“The third game we started trailing a little bit,” Haan said. “We were all trying so hard that we weren’t playing together, really. I think that hurt us in the third game.
“We still had a lot of confidence, but it got away from us a little bit in that third game. It was almost like we were playing not to lose instead of controlling the tempo of the game.”
The Knights never stopped rallying, closing a 23-17 deficit to 24-21 before the championship dream ended.
“Last year when we were in the championship game we were down by a few and luckily we came out on top,” a smiling Haan said. “I guess you can’t get that luck every year.”