Avery Jedry couldn’t shy away from the truth.
After Marist lost in the state semifinals to rival Benet Academy, ending the team’s chance for a historic three-peat, the RedHawks were dejected.
But, they knew the season couldn’t end with a loss.
And, it wouldn’t as Marist bounced back with an exciting 23-25, 25-22, 25-20 victory over Fremd on Nov. 16 in the Class 4A third-place game at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal.
Marist was powered by its talented senior class.
“Coming down here, you expect to get that first-place trophy,” Jedry said. “Off that loss, you dwell on it. Our team is strong enough, though, to realize we’re guaranteed one more game. Why would we waste it? Why would we want the season to end in a bad way? For our seniors, our team, it was important to end on a good note.”
Jedry finished with 9 kills and 9 digs for Marist (39-3), which took home its third straight state trophy after winning the Class 4A title in 2017 and 2018.
Maddie Arundel (12 kills, 6 digs, 2 aces), Camryn Hannah (11 kills, 13 assists, 7 digs), Nikki Jones (25 assists) and Kamryn Chaney (6 kills) all chipped in for the RedHawks.
Hannah, a Clemson recruit, was a standout player on all three state teams, accumulating 972 career kills.
The 6’2” right-side hitter/setter knew her team would deliver in the toughest moments, especially after an out-of-sorts first-set loss to Fremd.
“We made sure we all took a deep breath,” Hannah said. “We had to take a step back and make sure we were all at an even 95 percent. We weren’t trying too hard. We were just playing our game.”
Jones (Most Holy Redeemer) helped shut down a Fremd run to close the second set, not settling for a dump kill but swinging away for a hard-hit blast into the defense.
Sophomore Mary Clare Brusek (Queen of Martyrs) loved seeing her team’s fight.
“We didn’t want to end on a loss,” Brusek said. “That first game, that was not our team. We never played like that. We needed to bounce back and not dwell on that game in our last opportunity on the court together.”
Brusek finished with 4 kills and 2 blocks.
In the third set, Arundel, a Ferris State recruit, unleashed her nasty jump serve to close things out. Off a 20-all tie, Chaney’s fifth kill regained the momentum for Marist.
Arundel’s 4-0 service run, including a fast-dropping ace, featured a kill each from Jedry and another from Chaney. The game-winner came off a block from Jedry and Ellie Kurpeikis (4 kills).
“It felt great to be able to go back there and do that,” Arundel said. “To be able to look at the girls on the court and teammates on the bench, they bring confidence to me. We all have each other’s back. It was awesome.”
The RedHawks were without Mairead Boyle, a senior team captain and anchor of the defense at libero, who missed the semifinal and third-place match due to illness.
In her place, junior Jill Elsouso finished with 8 digs.
“It was pretty exciting, but it was pretty nerve-wracking,” Elsouso said. “It’s obviously devastating that Mairead couldn’t be with us. I knew I had to step up for her and the team. It felt great to be out there, even if we didn’t win the state title.”
Marist Coach Jordan Vidovic has accumulated a 147-16 record in four seasons.
“We always try to step back and appreciate the situation we’re in,” Vidovic said. “A lot of people would kill to play a match down here. Some of these girls have played in six. We do not take it for granted. These seniors, they wanted to lead the way.”
Losing the dominant senior class, Kurpeikis said the spotlight now turns to the returning players and underclassmen.
“We have to take the lead next year,” Kurpeikis said. “We have some great underclassmen coming up. We’ve been under the wings of our six great seniors who have taught us so much. We take it all in and use it for next year.”
In the last three seasons, Marist has gone a combined 117-7.
Benet Academy 25-25
Playing in the state semifinals on Nov. 15, the RedHawks lost to eventual state champion Benet Academy. The Redwings finished the season 40-1 with their only loss coming to Marist.
Hannah (6 kills, 5 digs), Jedry (6 kills, 5 digs), Arundel (5 kills, 6 digs), Jones (14 assists), Elsouso (11 digs) and Brusek (3 kills) led Marist.