When she was an eighth grader at Our Lady of Wayside in Arlington Heights, Cailyn Harrington was in the stands at Burlington Central High School in 2017 when St. Viator won its first girls volleyball sectional in program history.
On Wednesday night in the Cahill Gymnasium at St. Viator, the Lions won their second sectional crown and guess who was running the show?
Harrington, a senior setter, handed out 34 assists as the top-seeded Lions (33-5) survived No. 5 Lakes 25-17, 23-25, 25-16 in their own Class 3A sectional final to advance to Friday’s Woodstock North supersectional against Belvidere North (38-2), a No. 1 seed in the Sycamore sectional.
“It’s insane,” said Harrington, who also made it to the supersectional and state finals the year Viator placed fourth under coach Charlie Curtin, who has held the job since 2006. “It’s crazy. It’s a full circle moment. I think the feeling, even just watching back in 2017, you get the chills. It’s just so exciting and exhilarating and I wanted to be part of that for sure.”
Harrington had those same emotions, now as a player, on Wednesday.
“I loved our energy and how collected we stayed,” Harrington said about the third set. “Even though the second set didn’t go our way, we were still pretty calm and collected and knew what we needed to do to get going in the third set.”
Back-to-back blocks by Louisa Battin and a kill by Marie Torosian put the Lions in front 3-0 in the final set. They would never trail. The lead grew to 8-3 when Harrington put up a 10-foot set to Marie Torosian for the kill.
Back-to-back kills by Torosian made it 19-12 as the senior wound up with a team-high 13 kills, followed by Lilly LaFleur (10 kills), Lauren Allaire (7) and Marcelina Gorny (7).
“Marie is definitely one of our go-to players,” Curtin said. “We can rely on her in all rotations. Going into that third game, we just told the girls to relax, enjoy it and go one point at a time.”
LaFleur served for the final point in the match, getting it on a double-hit call on the Eagles, who finished their season at 26-13. They were led on offense by Julia Tebben (13 kills), Hailey Russo (6) and Mikalah Mueller (5). Setting the offense were Meagen Brylski (15 assists) and Katie Mercure (12). Tebben and Maegan Brylski each had 17 digs while Nicole Varga had 11 and Russo 9.
“We finished the season playing our best volleyball,” said Eagles coach Sarah Yeager. “These girls have fought every single second this season. Every time they walk into the gym they are prepared and ready to go. The mentality of this team was to never quit. We haven’t quit all season and I am extremely proud and humbled to be a part of this program.
“You saw that mentality when they came out of that first set and were able to come back like we did and take the second set. They had a great season. I give Viator a lot of credit. They are a strong program and were trying to come up with ways to stop their middles, but man, they are just impressive. I wish them luck as they continue forward.”
Gorny (5), Battin (4) and LaFleur (2) led the Lions’ blockers. Libero Reanne Valera collected 14 digs followed by Allaire (15), Battin (6) and Mary Grace Lynch (6).
“Lakes played with all its heart and might,” Curtin said. “Definitely kudos to them. They came out ready to fight, and that was especially impressive because we had a huge crowd on our home court. But they were able to keep themselves in the match. They were super scrappy. They really brought it.
“It’s unbelievable how many balls they got up. They’re definitely undersized but they come at you all the time.”
The second set was tied 10 times. A tip by Gorny gave Viator a 23-21 lead but Lakes charged back with the next 4 points to win the set, capped by Tebben’s and back-to-back aces by Russo.
The Lions then regrouped for the decisive set to defend their No. 1 seed.
“Honestly, I love being the No. 1 seed,” Harrington said. “It is a target on your back and a lot of pressure. But it’s great pressure because when you win, you’re just proving yourself. So I think we really proved ourselves with the strong games and finally putting them away. Now we have to get back to the basics at practice working on team serve receive, watching films and seeing what we need to work on.”