The second loss of the season came at the worst possible time for the Lady ’Canes volleyball team. After a 24-game winning streak, the ’Canes fell to Marian Catholic (25-22, 22-25, 25-22) in the IHSA Class 3A state final match Nov. 12 in Bloomington.
The Lady ’Canes had faced off against the Spartans of Marian Catholic Sept. 21 at home, defeating them 2-0. But the Spartans took notes and were able to conquer the seemingly unstoppable team from Marian Central.
The Lady ’Canes, with 10 seniors, finished second in the state, ending an unbelievable two seasons for a varsity team, 79-5, and won the state title last year.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish over two years is the stuff of dreams. You don’t get these opportunities often,” Marian Central coach Laura Watling said. “What we’ve been able to do, nothing will take that away. It doesn’t matter how we finished. It’s the ride that we’ve been on.”
The outside hitter for the Spartans, sophomore Temitayo Thomas-Ailara, proved to be the biggest challenge for the Lady ’Canes. She finished the match with 18 kills, and the ’Canes could not come up with a way to slow her down.
“The last time we played them, we were able to limit a lot more of her touches,” Watling said. “This time, it just seemed like no matter what we did, they still found a way to get her the ball. We adjusted the block, and she would make her adjustments around the block. What she was able to do today, I give her all the credit. We have a really good blocking team. We have good defense. She did everything she could today, and it worked.”
The Lady ’Canes finished their season 40-2. They didn’t lose a single set in the postseason until dropping the first set against Marian Catholic. The Spartans took control of the court and the Lady ’Canes were not able to lead at all during the first set.
“I don’t really think dropping the first set changed our mindset,” said Marian Central senior McKayla Wuensch. “We were still set on our goal, and we wanted to get that, and they ended up coming out and wanting it a little bit more and playing harder.”
Wuensch contributed 25 assists against the Spartans and finished her career at Marian Central with a school record of 2,346. She also had two kills in the game.
Senior Sydney Nemtuda, who recently broke the school record for kills, added 10 more, bringing the new record to 1,013. Nemtuda also had three aces.
“We always play our hearts out, we always finish. We’ve played huge schools, and we’ve beaten them, and that is what I’m proud of,” Nemtuda said. “Of course this isn’t a good feeling, but looking back on the rest of the season, it’s just one of the best feelings in the world.”
Senior Lauren Hanlon added one kill, senior Brenna Koch had three kills and nine digs, and senior Rachel Noonan had four kills and two blocks.
Senior libero Megan Schwallie, with 13 digs against the Spartans, was understandably emotional after the Championship game.
“The hardest part about this is that half of these seniors aren’t ever playing again, like Brenna [Koch]. They’re all my best friends. It just sucks that I can’t do this with them again,” Schwallie said.
Since the Lady ’Canes have made back-to-back state appearances, next year they will move up to Class 4A.