It wasn’t the state championship they dreamed of, but the Althoff Crusaders were plenty excited to be bringing home the third-place trophy from the Class 2A state volleyball tournament.
“Initially after losing (the semifinal) yesterday we were all a little down for only a couple minutes,” said Althoff senior Katie Allard, whose team defeated Chicago Latin 25-16, 22-25, 25-18 in the third-place match Saturday at Illinois State University. “Then we realized this is our last game of the season, for the three seniors our last game being able to put on an Althoff jersey.
“We said there’s no reason we shouldn’t go out with a win and third place in the state is really, really awesome and an amazing accomplishment.”
It was Althoff’s third time winning third place in state volleyball and its seventh top-four finish. A parade with the Crusaders’ players on fire trucks is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday on Main Street and will finish up at the school.
“We just knew we wanted to go out with a win,” Althoff senior Emily Myatt said. “What better way to go out? We wanted to win, so we did it. Obviously we would have loved to win (yesterday) but we still end on a win. Third place at state ... a lot of people can’t do that.”
Althoff (24-12) followed a similar path to Friday’s semifinal loss to St. Joseph-Ogden. The Crusaders won the first set and then lost the second, but this time had plenty of resolve to finish off the Chicago Latin Romans (29-11-2).
“We learned from yesterday that teams can come out very quickly on you even if you win the first set,” Althoff coach Sara Dietrich said. “The girls did not give up, we played to win and we kept them on their toes.”
Althoff will be bumped up to Class 3A next season because of the Illinois High School’s “success formula” based on postseason performance by private schools.
But based on the current roster, which includes three freshmen that saw heavy playing time this season and eight juniors, the future is bright.
Freshmen Katie Wemhoener and Karinna Gall led Althoff with 10 kills apiece Saturday and junior setter Louise Comerford added six. Junior Leighten Kaiser and Myatt each had five kills while Comerford also had 28 assists and seven digs.
“These seniors are going to be greatly missed,” Dietrich said. “They’re going to be hard to replace, but these freshmen ... even (the ones) that weren’t dressing, they have this taste and they’re going to want to be back.
“We have set the bar and the standard of how we handle things in the offseason and that’s a great accomplishment to all three seniors.”
Gall and Wemhoener combined for six kills in the first set, with Wemhoener closing out the win on back-to-back kills.
Latin picked up its hitting game in the second set, quickly building a 12-5 lead and forcing Althoff to play from behind.
The Crusaders battled back to within 24-22 before a kill by Lorra Wilson won it for the Romans. Charlotte Cronister led Latin with nine kills while Julia Kinder and Kelsey Watkins had six each.
Myatt helped Althoff take control of a tight third set, putting up two blocks and a kill in a four-point run that put her team on top to stay. A kill from Comerford closed out the match.
Dietrich shed a few tears when discussing the feeling of being able to win third place while coaching with her aunt, current Althoff assistant and former head coach Kathy Wuller. Wuller was on the bench for Althoff’s six previous state tournament trips from 1999 to 2007 and was there again this time with her niece.
Althoff also finished fourth at state in 1982 under John Rule.
“It means a lot,” Dietrich said. “She was the other coach to get trophies within the program. I’m at a loss for words really; it’s an unbelievable feeling.”