High school volleyball: Marian Central goes undefeated in five matches at Jacobs Invitational

ALGONQUIN – Marian Central senior setter McKayla Wuensch apologized if her voice was unrecognizable after playing seven matches in four days.

First came a sweep against St. Francis, the defending Class 4A state champion, on Wednesday. Then the Hurricanes knocked off Kaneland, a Class 3A school that had just beaten the Class 4A state runner-up, Glenbard West, only days earlier on Thursday.

On Saturday, Marian regrouped for the Jacobs Invitational. And, for the second straight year, the Hurricanes went undefeated in five matches in a little under seven hours.

Marian lost only one set all day, sweeping Hersey in the semifinals and beating previously unbeaten Stevenson, 25-23, 25-13, to capture the tournament title in back-to-back years.

“It’s been insane,” said Wuensch, who was named to the all-tournament team along with Marian’s Lauren Hanlon. “It’s been a hectic schedule. And then having practice every single day, but I think we’re keeping up with it. Being able to have those practices ... our endurance is great.”

Wuensch recorded 26 assists and two aces against Stevenson, Sydney Nemtuda smashed 10 kills, Brenna Koch and Lauren Hanlon had seven kills apiece, and Meghan Schwallie added 11 digs for the Hurricanes (9-0).

Marian’s lone set loss of the 12-team invite was in a 25-15, 25-27, 15-10 win over Wisconsin’s Catholic Memorial, a private school from Waukesha with six state championships in six years.

“It’s been cool to start this way,” Hurricanes coach Laura Watling said. “It’s extremely exciting, especially with the quality of teams that we’ve played and how well we’re doing against them. And we know there’s still more for us to do, so that makes it even more exciting.”

For the tournament, Nemtuda led the way with 46 kills, Hanlon had 33 kills, Koch had 23 kills, Wuensch had 115 assists, and Schwallie led the defense with 54 digs.

Marian’s start to the season is nearly identical to last year, when they were 8-0 through the Jacobs Invitational, including big wins over St. Francis and Catholic Memorial.

Stevenson entered the tournament final against Marian without a loss in its first 12 matches.

“It’s a great start to the season,” Hanlon said. “It shows that we’re back. We just tried to stay focused on what we knew we could do. We kept it basic, and tried to keep it fast.”

The Hurricanes get a two-day breather before opening up East Suburban Catholic Conference play on Tuesday against Marist, one of only three teams to defeat Marian last year.

About the only thing the Hurricanes didn’t do on their way to a program-record 39 wins and a Class 3A state championship last season was winning the conference title.

“We worked so hard all day, so it means a lot,” Wuensch said. “It’s been fun. We’ve been doing a lot of crazy plays. ... I think in the past couple of days, everything has been forming together.”

Elsewhere in the tournament, Cary-Grove (4-5) was 3-2 and lost in the fifth-place match against Catholic Memorial, Crystal Lake Central (6-3) finished 3-2 and took seventh, and Jacobs placed 12th with a 1-4 record.

Joining Wuensch and Hanlon on the all-tournament team were Cary-Grove’s Maddy Katchen and Amber Olson, Crystal Lake Central’s Kendall Lownds and Camryn Hausler, and Jacobs’ Katelyn Rainsford and Danielle Cassidy.

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