NORMAL – Joliet Catholic Academy’s girls volleyball team surprised many by earning an appearance in the IHSA Class 3A championship match for the seventh time in school history and the first time since 2015 in a season where it was forced to deal with multiple injury problems.
But trying to upset a Sterling team that was determined to repeat as state champions and then turned in an outstanding performance during Saturday’s title match at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena proved to be too big of a challenge for the Angels.
The Golden Warriors recorded 34 kills and had an impressive .351 hitting percentage that helped them earn a 25-16, 25-19 victory over JCA, which was hoping to win its fourth state championship and its first since the 2009 season.
Sterling (36-6) was paced by junior sisters Brooklyn Borum (16 kills, .394 hitting, four aces, six digs) and Bree Borum (20 assists, five kills, nine digs) and freshman Grace Egan (11 kills, .526 hitting, five digs) as it defeated the Angels (26-15) for the second-straight year in the state finals, doing so in the semifinals last year, when it posted a 41-1 record.
“I give these girls a lot of credit for carrying on the tradition of Joliet Catholic Academy volleyball,” Angels coach Christine Scheibe said. “What they came through this year with the injuries, just to make it here was an honor and to be able to play in the championship game was even more of an honor.
“But it was kind of obvious that Sterling had that cohesiveness of playing together for a long time, and we just aren’t at that level of consistency all of the time. We’ve been able to fight through it a lot, but against a team like that which has been playing together for several years, it’s hard to compete against that.”
In the opener, JCA trailed 14-12 after a kill by Emily Surin (four kills) but Bree Borum made a kill and shared a block and Egan added a kill as coach Dale Dykeman’s Golden Warriors built their lead to 19-12 with Grace Gould serving four points.
Things were tighter in the second set as JCA only trailed 15-14 with Jillian Gray (six digs) getting six of her team-high nine kills in that set. But Egan answered with back-to-back kills and later served an ace and Bree Borum followed with a kill to make it 21-16 and the Angels could get no closer than three points after that.
“This year has kind of been an emotional roller coaster,” Gray said. “Just to be able to finish out on the court and have one last chance to give it my all since I wasn’t sure if that was going to be a possibility earlier in the year was definitely a special feeling.”
Other JCA leaders were Ryan Hinshaw (21 assists, six digs), Bella Ray (four kills), Kristen Leuszler (four kills, six digs), and Riley Hungate (seven digs) while Alexis Rodriguez (eight digs) was another leader for Sterling, which won 20 of its last 21 matches.
“Our goal was to get revenge and do better than we did last year and we did because we got second instead of third,” Ray said. “It’s not exactly what we wanted. But this playoff run was a really good show of our character because we all jelled together and did what we had to do to get here.”
Although the team came up short of winning a title, the Angels were happy that they were able to put themselves in the position despite the obstacles that they dealt with.
“This was something that was very special and we’re very lucky to be able to experience this,” Hinshaw said.