Baranek: Nostradamus, your job is safe
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org November 8, 2012 8:44PM
Mother McAuley fans storm the court after the Mighty Macs defeated Hinsdale Central for the supersectional title. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 10, 2012 6:26AM
From a prognosticator’s viewpoint, it’s really a good feeling to, at end of a season, write a headline that reads, “Then, now, Marist rules area roost.”
That’s what I wrote a year ago after picking the RedHawks as our preseason No. 1 girls volleyball team and having them finish that way.
Kinda makes you feel like you know what you’re talking, er, writing about.
Can’t write the same thing this year, though. And although somebody told me at the start of the season, after I indicated slight embarrassment at having to make some big early changes in my Top 10, “Hey, don’t worry about it. Nobody will remember,” I remember. Besides, it’s fun to do an accountability check. So let’s do it, comparing the final Top 10 with the first one.
10. Providence (25-12): Had the Celtics No. 8 to start, figuring they’d be hurting because of an unexpected transfer. I also had faith that setter Krista Brakauskas would keep them competitive. The Celtics peaked at No. 3 after going 4-1 at the Rich East Invitational and beating Lincoln-Way Central for the Silver title but hit the wall down the stretch at Glenbard West and against the best of the ESCC.
9. Chicago Christian (24-16): Didn’t think the Knights would bounce back from graduation hits and didn’t rank them, but they surprised early, going 5-1 in the first week. They hung steady in the No. 10 spot for several weeks before dropping out Oct. 9 after losing back-to-back conference matches. A nice postseason run in Class 3A convinced me they deserved to go back up among the elite.
8. Lincoln-Way East (25-12): Had the Griffins at No. 3 to start and felt like a genius when they ripped off 12 straight victories. Their peak was at No. 2 on Sept. 18 before three straight losses burst their bubble. East really never did recover its mojo, playing .500 ball over its final 25 matches.
7. Lockport (25-11): Kind of off target here, basing a No. 2 preseason pick on a summer league championship and the fact the Porters had more than 600 kills coming back. Actually, the Porters played very good volleyball for quite a long time. They hung in the top four until a disastrous match against Sandburg in which they went Jekyll and Hyde, winning an exciting Set 1 26-24, only to get hammered in the final two sets. Still, it was a solid first season for new coach Erika Lange.
6. Lemont (25-12): Paid way too much attention to a survey in which Indians coach Chris Zogata wrote, “A learning and building year for Lemont.” Gotta admit, I held out on ranking the Indians until they pounded Shepard in a showdown between South Suburban champions, then pulled big playoff surprises against Lockport and Plainfield North.
5. Marist (29-6): What was not to like putting the RedHawks into the No. 1 spot? They had experience, they had height and they had the swagger of a defending state finalist. And they promptly went out and dropped their opener to Hinsdale South. They lost their hold on the No. 1 spot after a loss Sept. 11 to Mother McAuley but regained it by beating the Mighty Macs at the Rich East invite. One more back-and-forth swap set them up as a postseason favorite before a stunning regional loss to Lincoln-Way Central sent them spiraling down to fifth.
4. Lincoln-Way Central (29-9): This is up two spots from where the Knights started and where they were for most of the season. They nailed a big win over Joliet Catholic at the St. Charles East Mizuno Cup and further validated themselves with a shocking three-set victory over Marist in the Lincoln-Way North Regional final. They crash-landed from that emotional high in a less than stellar sectional semi loss to Stagg, but all in all, can feel good about a school-record 29 wins.
3. Stagg (32-7): With literally everybody back from last year’s 19-18 squad, I figured there would be improvement and started the Chargers at No. 7. Behind the Conrad twins, Jill and Ali, and one of the best defenders in the state (Morgan Thomas), they harkened the glory days of the 1990s when coach Mary Weitz led them to five straight 30-win seasons. Winning the SouthWest Suburban Red set up a nice postseason run all the way to a masterful effort against Lincoln-Way Central. Then along came Mother McAuley ...
2. Sandburg (29-9): Starting the Eagles at No. 5, I wasn’t sure about the supporting cast for Dakota Hampton and continued to have doubts during a 6-3 start. But Paige Bendell emerged as a second go-to leader and it all came together. The Eagles definitely saved their best for last, winning the Maine West title, sweeping the SouthWest Suburban Blue and thrashing their foes in the postseason. They came oh so close to beating McAuley in the sectional final.
1. Mother McAuley (35-4): OK, this was the one I goofed on the most with a No. 4 preseason ranking. But, come on. Five sophomores? Most of them projected to start? Yeah, those sophomores won a national club title, but it was against 15-year-olds. Well, they sure didn’t play like 15-year-olds, except occasionally, namely against Marist at the Rich East invite and St. Ignatius in the GCAC Red title match. Now they’re in Normal, playing on state finals weekend.
Think I’ll be smarter next year?