NORMAL — LaSalle-Peru’s hopes for a state championship were dashed in Saturday’s IHSA 3A volleyball finals, falling 25-19, 25-7 to Wheaton St. Francis at Redbird Arena.
While it’s not the one they hoped for, the Lady Cavs bring back their first state trophy since placing fourth in Class 2A in 1990.
The Spartans know a thing or two about State championships. Ten of them, in fact, all under veteran coach Peg Kopec. The 10 state championships is a state record.
“It’s as good as any of them,” said Kopec, who has taken 18 St. Francis teams to state. “It’s pretty special. It’s a nice achievement for this team.”
L-P (35-5) had a strong first set, but were overwhelmed in the second, mainly its own worst enemy with 14 errors in the second set. St. Francis jumped to a 9-2 lead and cruised to a 25-7 victory.
“Game 1 we had a lot of energy. We started slow, but we were able to regroup and we were able to play real good volleyball,” LaSalle-Peru coach Mark Haberkorn said. “We were back-and-forth, back-and-forth ... but we made a few mistakes down the stretch.
“Game 2, we struggled to serve and receive. We had a hard time getting into our offense.”
L-P also fell behind early in the first set, 8-3, but rallied back for a 11-11 tie. A kill by sophomore Taylor Gibson got L-P within 19-18 before three L-P errors helped the Spartans finish off a 25-19 set.
“I think going out we didn’t know how they were going to play against us,” St. Francis’ Molly Haggerty said. “So in the second game we kind of adjusted to how they were playing, and we focused more on what we needed to do.”
Haggerty and Mary Boken each had seven kills for St. Francis. Gibson led L-P with six kills
L-P defeated Chicago Payton 25-18, 25-17 in Friday’s semifinals.
Class 2A: Fieldcrest dropped both of its matches at state in 2A in its first state appearance in school history. In Saturday’s third-place match they lost to Deer Creek-Mackinaw 25-14, 25-10. The Lady Knights fell to Albion Edwards County 25-22, 25-17 in Friday’s 2A semifinals.
Fieldcrest was the Hall Regional champion and won the Bureau Valley Super-Sectional on its road to Normal.
Elmhurst Immaculate Conception previously defeated Albion Edwards County 25-15, 25-19 for the 2A title.
L-P reached the IHSA State tournament for the first time since 1990, when it finished fourth in Class 2A in the old two-class system. It became just the third school and fourth team from the Illinois Valley to reach the state finals, joining Princeton, first in 1990, and Mendota, second in ‘81 and ‘92.
LaSalle-Peru becomes the 11th volleyball team from the Illinois Valley to trophy at state.
Mendota tops the Illinois Valley trophy list with eight state finishes with seconds in ‘81 and ‘92, thirds in ‘75 and ‘87 and fourths in ‘80, ‘82, ‘90 and ‘93.
Princeton has produced the only state champion, winning the 1A crown in 1990.