Girls Volleyball: Mother McAuley brings experience to new season
By Tony Baranek email@example.com September 1, 2013 7:46PM
Mother McAuley 2013 volleyball roster includes (front row, from left): Courtney Joyce and Gabrielle Ennis; and (back row, from left) Ryann DeJarld, Maggie Scanlon, Carla Cahill, Kennedy Arundel and Kelsey Clark. | Tony Baranek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 3, 2013 6:03AM
A year and a third-place Class 4A finish later, Mother McAuley volleyball coach Jen DeJarld is speaking a little differently in the preseason light about her Mighty Macs.
“(We) will be flying under the radar a little,” she said in August 2012 before unleashing perhaps one of the best group of five sophomores that ever contributed to a varsity roster.
“Well, I have 13 returnees so I feel really strong and a step ahead going into the season,” she said.
OK, let’s take it an extra step further.
Her best-ever team?
“Could be,” DeJarld said. “I don’t like to ever say, ‘This is the best team I’ve ever had,’ but it potentially could be.
“I don’t ever like to say things like, ‘She’s the best defender we’ve ever had at Mother McAuley.’ Listen, we have a history of great teams and great players. But this is one of the strongest teams I’ve seen at Mother McAuley in a very long time.”
And the core of it is still young.
The five sophomores who now are juniors — Carla Cahill, Maggie Scanlon, Ryann DeJarld, Kelsey Clarke and Kennedy Arundel — no longer are flying under anyone’s radar.
Not that they truly ever were under Jen DeJarld’s.
“Really, from the beginning, just watching them competitively in drills and charting them at practice it was high intensity,” she said. “They just have a high level of leadership, they know how to win and they know how to compete in big matches.
“That’s something that this group has had for a very long time. Some people argue that you’re born with it; you either have it or you don’t. Some coaches feel they can bring it out in players. But this group has had it since they were young.”
And it’s why DeJarld didn’t flinch when staring in the face of raised eyebrows and critical comments on social forums last season because she was playing younger kids ahead of juniors and seniors, one of them her own daughter.
For their part, the kids delivered.
Straight out of the Michio Chicago Volleyball Academy’s 15-year-olds team that won the USAV junior national championship, the fivesome started contributing right away in victories over Joliet Catholic and Marist.
“I remember that first (match), it was a lot of pressure,” Ryann DeJarld said. “I know I felt bad, kind of, about starting over some juniors. But eventually I realized that we were all the same. It wasn’t a matter of beating whoever out, but being ready to play for the team.”
There was a stumble or two along the way — one, ironically, in the final GCAC Tournament title match against St. Ignatius. In the state playoffs Mother McAuley was rock-solid, dramatically rallying against Sandburg in a sectional semifinal, bumping off Stagg in two in a sectional final and squashing Hinsdale Central to earn the school’s first state berth since 2008.
Courtney Joyce, then a junior, proved to be an effective “older” influence on the kiddie corps that could.
“My sophomore year I was the only sophomore on varsity with all the rest seniors,” the Western Illinois-bound setter said. “I knew what it would take (leadership-wise) to get everybody to the level we needed to be. And we obviously did. We made it to state and came in third.
“My confidence (in them) was never shaken. I knew we were going to be good, and I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to go far.”
And now older, theoretically stronger and wiser, the Mighty Macs are taking aim on the school’s 14th state title, which would be the first since Nancy Pedersen’s final season as the coach in 2004.
“(McAuley) hasn’t won in a long time,” DeJarld said. “They’re hungry for that. We’re going to remind them of that. They just can’t settle for being anything but the best they can be.”