One of the state’s most feared outside hitters, Marist senior Marty Jepsen couldn’t help but think of a less-than-pleasant memory.
As he skied for the potential state-clinching kill, Jepsen remembered that his last three seasons, two in club and his junior year at Marist, ended with a hitting error—his own.
There would not be a fourth.
Jepsen blasted a shot that deflected off a Glenbard West defender and out of bounds as Marist prevailed in a 25-21, 25-23 thriller on June 1 to win the state championship.
“I can’t put it into words. It’s incredible,” Jepsen said. “It goes back to the whole team. It was a great pass and a great set. I knew [Gene McNulty] was going to give it to me. I’m so proud of every single teammate.”
It was Marist’s third state championship, including titles in 2002 and 2010.
Making the program’s first state appearance since 2010, it was only appropriate that Jepsen, a four-year varsity star, would add the finishing touch this year.
McNulty, a junior setter, knew exactly where he was going on the game-winner.
“[Coach Jordan Vidovic] hates that, knowing where you’re going to pass, but nobody deserved it more than he did,” McNulty said. “I really wanted him to get that game-ending point. For everything he’s done for the program, I thought it was the least I could do.”
The Lewis-bound Jepsen finished with 14 kills and 11 digs. On 31 attacks, the 6’2” hitter had no hitting errors.
Vidovic praised his star senior’s capabilities.
“There’s not a better ending,” Vidovic said. “He controlled the court and impacted the game in every single way. He’s the best player in the state by far. He might be the most impactful player in the country. He makes everyone better.”
Jake McClain (5 kills), McNulty (25 assists), Jake Bonnett (4 kills, 3 blocks), Brendan Chausse (14 digs) and Nyherowo Omene (3 kills, 5 blocks) all provided major contributions for the RedHawks.
A 6’6” sophomore, Omene was a force in the middle with block after block against a heavy-hitting Glenbard West squad.
“Our motto has been ‘How bad?’ How bad do you want it?” Omene said. “We faced Minooka right off the bat [in the quarters]. We faced Lincoln-Way East in the sectional. You put your blood, sweat and tears into it, or you can go through the motions.”
The RedHawks trailed early in the first set 6-2 but quickly climbed back with waves of kills and blocks.
Omene put Marist up for good at 18-17 with his second kill on an impressively quick reflex hit on a high ball from Glenbard West.
Jepsen added 2 kills late as the team closed in style.
Marist led the entire second set and held off a final charge. Up 21-20, the RedHawks exchanged points with the Hilltoppers with McClain, Bonnett (St. Christina), Omene and finally Jepsen scoring a kill each.
“We like to keep everything even-keeled,” Chausse said. “If you’re a streaky team, you’re up and down. We came back early and slowly started to get the lead.”
Marist finished the season 40-2 and ended the year on a 26-game win streak. The RedHawks only went to 3 sets in 5 matches all season.
Vidovic has now won the boys title and the girls title (2017, 2018).
Marist is the first Illinois high school to win the girls and boys state volleyball championship in the same academic year.
In his five seasons coaching the boys team, Vidovic has a 160-35 record.
“This changes the look of Marist volleyball as a whole,” Chausse said. “It started five years ago with Coach Vidovic. It’s #Program and that family feeling. You never understand until you’re in it.”