The Lady ’Canes volleyball team finished off their regular season with a perfect conference record, taking down Benet Academy at home on senior night Oct. 18.
Arguably one of the toughest rivals the ’Canes faced all season, Benet took the East Suburban Catholic Conference title in 2015, beating Marian Central in the final conference match of the season. Benet did not give the win to Marian easily, winning the first set 18-25. But coach Laura Watling remained calm after her team struggled to keep up.
“The second set, I wasn’t nervous. I knew we had every ability within us to come back. We had just made a lot of silly errors. We stayed very focused, executed what we needed to. It all came together,” Watling said.
The 2-1 win (25-23, 25-23) moved the Lady ’Canes to an impressive 34-1 for the regular season, and a spotless conference record of 7-0.
Sydney Nemtuda, with 15 kills against Benet, recently set the all-time varsity kills record at Marian. She has tallied more than 950 during her years with the ’Canes, besting the previous record of 856 set by Rachel Giustino. She credits her success over matches like Benet to a strong mental game, for herself and her teammates.
“When it comes to teams this close in talent, it all comes down to mental. We realized toward the end of that first set, that our brains just got loose and we didn’t know what to do. Coming into the second set, we talked and said OK, it’s all in our heads, and if we’re in this mentally, then we are going to win this match,” said Nemtuda.
McKayla Wuensch had six kills and 27 assists, Rachel Noonan had six kills and four blocks, and libero Meghan Schwallie had 16 digs. Lauren Hanlon contributed four kills and 11 digs.
Looking ahead to regionals, Hanlon reflected on where the team struggled against Benet, and how they will move forward. “I think emotionally, we just didn’t have a lot of energy, and it brought the atmosphere down. We can work on our energy and consistency,” said Hanlon.
The final match of the regular season falling on senior night made it an emotional victory. The roster is deep with 10 seniors, all of whom have played volleyball throughout their time at Marian.
This is the first time the ’Canes have won the ESCC title. They will compete at the IHSA Class 3A regionals in Vernon Hills beginning Tuesday, Oct. 25.