Boys Volleyball Sectional: St. Rita gets by Mount Carmel
By Matt Bruce For Sun-Times Media May 29, 2012 11:32PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:32PM
St. Rita found its season just one point away from being done Tuesday night.
Mount Carmel had all the momentum, had rattled off three consecutive points, and was on the verge of clinching its first state berth in more than 10 years.
But an errant Caravan serve opened the door for St. Rita, allowing the Mustangs to close out the game on a 4-0 run to snatch victory from their Catholic League Blue rival. Dan O’Keefe’s game-winning spike lifted St. Rita to a 23-25, 25-16, 26-24 victory to win the De La Salle Sectional championship at a raucous Parmer Activity Center in Chicago.
“I couldn’t even talk because I just didn’t know how it was going to come out. I was so nervous,” St. Rita coach Ryan Biros said.
The win advanced St. Rita (25-14) to the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. The Mustangs will square off with Minooka at 2 p.m. Friday at Hoffman Estates High School.
After splitting the first two games Tuesday, the two teams battled back and forth through the decisive Game 3, which featured seven lead changes and 10 ties.
St. Rita took control midway through, leading 20-17. Mount Carmel (17-18) responded by scoring seven of the next nine points, and took the lead on a block by Matthew Walsh (8 kills, 4 blocks). The Caravan led 24-22 after a misplayed ball by the St. Rita defense. But a wayward Caravan serve gave the Mustangs new life.
St. Rita took full advantage. O’Keefe (10 kills, 14 digs) struck on the next series to knot the score. Mount Carmel was called for a violation on a would-be kill by Bobby Walsh, returning the lead to the Mustangs. Then came O’Keefe’s game-winner, which bounced off two Caravan blockers and out of bounds.
“It’s the state playoffs, and everyone’s win-hungry,” said St. Rita outside hitter John Johnson, who had 21 kills. “Just to get to state’s like the greatest feeling. I can’t even explain it right now.”
It was the third time this season St. Rita beat the Caravan.
“We smelled it, and obviously for our seniors it hurts,” Mount Carmel coach Marco Quintana said. “But this is the best game we’ve played the entire season. So to go off on a note like this, and make it known that they left it all on the floor, we didn’t lose tonight. Now it’s just a matter of building.”