Volleyball: Local flavor spices McAuley college tourney
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2012 9:44PM
MaryKate Imrie and the UIC Flames will be part of the field Saturday and Sunday at the 2012 Chicago Classic at Mother McAuley. | Supplied photo
2012 CHICAGO CLASSIC
Penn State vs. DePaul, 10 a.m.
UIC vs. Oregon State, noon
DePaul vs. UIC, 5 p.m.
Penn State vs. Oregon State, 7 p.m.
Oregon State vs. DePaul, 11 a.m.
Penn State vs. UIC, 1 p.m.
Updated: October 7, 2012 8:02AM
Some of the top Division I girls volleyball prospects in the country will be on display Sept. 28 and 29 during the Asics Challenge at Mother McAuley.
Before then, the SouthWest Side powerhouse will host some finished products.
Four Division I teams — five-time national champion Penn State, Oregon State, DePaul and UIC — will be playing Saturday and Sunday at McAuley in the 2012 Chicago Classic.
It will be former McAuley and Penn State standout and current UIC coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley’s first competitive return to the school since she ended her stellar prep career there in 1997.
“It’s exciting to be one of the selected four,” said Schumacher-Cawley, who has another McAuley grad, Ellen Hayes, as an assistant coach. “I have so much love for Penn State, and I’m excited to see my coach (Russ Rose). Our team is looking forward to not only playing Penn State but Oregon State and DePaul. ... It’s an awesome, awesome tournament.
“I stopped by McAuley this summer to visit the new coach (Ashley Luke). She was at Penn State when I was there. That was the first time I had been in that gym in a long time. It was neat. It’s a great place, such an awesome sports venue.”
The two-day tournament was organized by former McAuley star and Elite Volleyball coach Therese Boyle-Niego.
“When I recruited teams to come to this there had to be a connection to Chicago,” Boyle-Niego said. “Landing Penn State was the first thing. Russ is Chicago native. And once you land Penn State, you’re good to go as far as attracting other teams.
“Russ could have singled out a few other tournaments and got a $10,000 guarantee, but he chose to come here because he loves the South Side of Chicago. He then requested that UIC and DePaul be in the tournament, because Katie and Nadia (Edwards) played for him at Penn State. So it was all about relationships and friendships. We’re all connected.”
Edwards, a former standout at Lincoln-Way, is in her third season as coach at DePaul, which is 3-3 going into the weekend tourney.
Penn State is 5-0, with six returning starters, including U.S. Olympic team members Megan Hodge and Christa Harmotto. Two other Nittany Lions, Alisha Glass and Nicole Fawcett, were Olympic team alternates.
Junior MaryKate Imrie (Sandburg) is one of four former Southland standouts playing for UIC along with senior Jacqueline Lang (Marist), senior Aubrey Sniegowski (Lemont) and junior Maggie Strus (Stagg).
“It’s been a while but I grew up playing in that gym. It’ll be cool to be back,” Imrie said. “I’m looking forward to playing Penn State (on Sunday), but we’ve got two matches before that so we’re kind of focusing on those first.
“That gym has a ton of memories for me, all the way back to my St. Michael days, playing in the playoffs there. I can remember one year when I was at Sandburg playing in the Asics Challenge there, we beat Wheaton St. Francis. That was totally unexpected and fun. It was one of my favorite matches in my whole high school career.”
Schumacher-Cawley was a premier athlete at McAuley from 1994 to ’97. Hers is the only banner hanging at Mother McAuley that lists accomplishments in two sports.
As a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, Schumacher-Cawley led the Mighty Macs volleyball squad downstate four times, where they captured two Class AA state titles. As a center on the basketball team, she helped lead McAuley to three state finals.
In total, Schumacher-Cawley was a member of seven Mighty Macs state finalists in seven seasons as an athlete.
At Penn State, Schumacher-Cawley was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and a two-time All-American. She was a member of the 1999 Nittany Lions’ Division I championship squad.
For Schumacher-Cawley, it should be quite a homecoming.
“Every game I played at McAuley was a blast,” she said. “I just remember being in awe of how many people would come to the games and how fun it was to be a part of.”
UIC will take a 3-4 record into Saturday’s matches against Oregon State and DePaul. The Flames’ latest win came Tuesday over Northern Illinois.
“We’re doing OK, getting better in every match,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “We’re really working hard on getting the right fit for the team and getting some wins before we start our conference schedule.”