Marist junior Katie Canavan had already strung together an impressive service run to bring the RedHawks back from a huge deficit.
So, she figured she might as well rattle off another one.
With Marist facing match point at 24-21, Canavan served up 5 straight points, including an ace on the match-winner as Marist prevailed in an 18-25, 25-13, 26-24 thriller over Joliet Catholic Academy (JCA) on Sept. 30 to win the ASICS Challenge title.
It was Marist’s first ASICS championship.
“I tried not to be nervous. I didn’t really look at the score,” said Canavan, a St. John Fisher graduate. “We needed the ball over and in because my team was going to back me up. We had to stay focused. It was crazy.”
Marist (23-1) rolled through the loaded tournament featuring some of the nation’s best teams, going 5-0, including a two-set win over nationally ranked Assumption (Ky.) in the semifinals.
St. Barnabas graduate Maggie Meyer had 19 kills for the RedHawks with Molly Murrihy (41 assists, 4 blocks), Canavan (4 aces), Savannah Thompson (15 kills, 18 digs) and Grace Green (18 digs) also contributing.
“We worked so hard throughout the tournament to come out with the win,” Thompson said. “We knew we would be able to pull it out. Katie is one of the most hard-working players on the team. She leads by example, especially at the service line, and you saw that today.”
With Marist in an 11-4 hole in the third set, Canavan delivered 3 aces as part of an 8-0 run that brought the RedHawks back.
Still, it was JCA controlling things late, going up 24-20 on back-to-back kills. Following a Thompson kill, Canavan came off the bench to serve.
She relied on her instincts to get the job done.
“Don’t think too much. The more I think, the more chance I’ll mess up,” Canavan said. “I pretend like it’s any other point.”
Another Thompson kill, a JCA shanked dig and two gigantic blocks from Murrihy on JCA hits put Marist up 25-24.
“It’s definitely point by point,” Murrihy said. “You can’t plan ahead. You can’t really plan for anything honestly.”
On match point, Canavan calmly served up a fast-dropping ace that fell at the foot of a JCA defender for the improbable winner. Marist closed on a 6-0 run to clinch the win.
“Katie put in a good, hard, tough serve, and our block stopped them,” Meyer said. “Nothing crazy, nothing showy, but she got the ace, and it was just crazy.”
Meyer was a huge part of the turnaround after a lackluster opening set. The senior outside hitter blasted 9 kills in the second set, including a string of 6 of 7 points scored by the RedHawks.
Her confidence paid off.
“I just want the ball more,” Meyer said. “It’s having that complete confidence to put the next ball down. This gives us a ton of confidence. We’re playing well, getting better, and we’ll use this going forward.”
In addition to the JCA and Assumption victories, Marist defeated Downers Grove North, Lincoln-Way East and Henry Clay (Ky).
The team’s regroup between the Assumption and JCA wins impressed Marist Coach Jordan Vidovic.
“We played phenomenal versus Assumption. We played our best,” Vidovic said. “That match takes so much out of you, so to come back and just figure it out, find different ways to score points, that says a lot about our team in general. That’s the great experience you get out of these tournaments, especially this one.”
Marist played at JCA in an East Suburban Catholic Conference match on Oct. 3, after press time.