KANKAKEE — Rivalry matchups always seem to have a bit more drama and competitiveness than when two unfamiliar opponents square off, but Bishop McNamara and Kankakee took that drama to the next level when the two schools faced off in all-city volleyball action in Kankakee on Wednesday.
After the two squads split the first two sets, it was the Irish who stood tall and scored five of the last six points in the third set to take the decisive set 26-24 and knock off the Kays by a 2-1 final.
The Irish improved to 1-2 with the win, and the Kays fell to 2-4.
Irish coach George Hagemaster said his team’s ability to pull out a narrow win against a rival in a hostile environment was a testament to the six seniors on the Irish roster.
“I think that shows the maturity of our seniors,” Hagemaster said. “They’ve been in this many times before, so they’re used to it.
“I really give them a lot of credit for maintaining their composure on the court.”
It was apparent early on that the two teams would be pretty deadlocked, as they traded points in a back-and-forth affair through the first half of the set. But after the Irish took a 13-9 lead, the first lead either team held by more than three points, Jacqueline Allaway served up a pair of aces to stretch the lead to 15-9, a lead the Irish would take to a 25-20 first-set win.
Allaway had a well-rounded night, picking up key aces, blocks and kills when they were needed most. But she had to credit Kara Kleinert, who had 33 assists on the night, for making her look good.
“I have a good setter who helps me hit,” Allaway said.
And for Hagemaster, it was that passing that allowed the Irish to rebound after a two-set loss to Herscher last week, a match he said was doomed by their lack of passing.
“As you could see, the passing was pretty good,” Hagemaster said. “And we had a number of players hitting the ball.”
But the Kays kept their composure and rebounded in the second set, one that stayed tight throughout. The two teams exchanged six ties and seven lead changes over the middle set, one the Kays took 25-23 on an excellent block from Makayla Mondy.
Kays coach Dennis Pommier said Mondy is the leader of the team both on and off the court and hailed her efforts Wednesday.
“She had some big kills, she had some big blocks,” Pommier said. “She’s the inspiration for the team and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind.
“We’re gonna go as she goes, so we just hope she stays hot.”
In the third set, the Irish regained momentum and stormed ahead to 7-2 and 10-5 leads and appeared to be in control early. But the Kays ripped off four straight to get right back in it and, after a kill from Mondy, took a 13-12 lead.
That Kays lead ballooned to as large as 18-14 before the Irish tied things back up at 18, thanks to back-to-back kills from Molly Kurtz.
Kurtz had a team-high 10 kills for the Irish despite playing with an illness, one that has bugged a few of her teammates as well. Hagemaster said the girls picked each other up on Wednesday before his senior leader stepped up when she needed to.
“They’re a balanced offense and when one’s down, the others pick her up,” Hagemaster said. “Molly, we weren’t sure about her being ready to go and she really was a trooper.”
But the Kays weren’t to be outdone. Emily Glogowski notched a kill to regain a 19-18 lead before a pair of Jackson aces made it a 21-18 affair in favor of the Kays.
That lead was short-lived, as Kurtz picked up a kill to end the Kays’ momentum and make it a 21-19 contest. The Irish eventually tied it at 21, 23 and 24 before a Kays error and Elle Nugent kill wrapped up the win.
Hagemaster pointed to Kurtz’s kill as the third-set turning point that eventually led the Irish to victory.
“Jackson’s a good server and she got us a couple times,” Hagemaster said. “Elle stepped up, made a good pass and got a kill for Molly and we were on our way.”
The Kays are back in action at 6:30 p.m. today with a home matchup against Thornton. The Irish will maintain the all-city theme when they host Bradley-Bourbonnais at 7 p.m. Tuesday.