Girls Volleyball: Freshman Ellie White helps Macs top Joliet Catholic in opener
By Randy Whalen
With a veteran group back, Mother McAuley coach Jen DeJarld was looking forward to this season. Even if she had to wait nearly seven months extra for it to start.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the start of the girl’s volleyball season from late August of last year until mid-March. But the Mighty Macs made sure the wait was a good one, as they jolted Joliet Catholic 25-19, 25-13 in their season opener on March 16 in Mount Greenwood.
“I’ve been waiting for this season for three years now,” DeJarld said. “I have five seniors who have played since their sophomore year and four of them are starters. I’m happy for the season but wish there could have been state playoffs.”
There are no state playoffs this season, but there is something else for McAuley. A freshman sensation.
That is Ellie White, who became the first freshman to start for DeJarld, who is in her 16th season as a head coach.
“She’s been a special player since fifth grade and we’ve been licking our chops waiting for her to come here,” DeJarld said of White. “She’s a special player on a high level. It’s not common for any freshman to start on a high-level program.”
Current sophomore defensive specialist, Gigi Navarrete, played a lot for McAuley last season as a freshman but didn’t start her first match. White, however, did start.
“I always wanted to play here,” the freshman outside/right-side hitter said after smacking eight kills and getting four digs in her first match for the Mighty Macs. “I remember watching girls like Charley Niego and Nancy Kane play here.”
White has another big McAuley connection: Her mom, Colleen Quinlan White, is a 1994 McAuley graduate and a freshmen volleyball coach at the school. But there will be no freshmen team for the younger White, as she came out and contributed big time.
“It was my first high school match and I was a little nervous, but I was ready,” White said. “It just came so fast. I couldn’t believe how much faster it was out there than in grade school.”
White made her presence felt throughout. In the opener, a 5-0 run gave the Mighty Macs the lead for good at 7-3. Joliet Catholic trimmed it to 16-15 on an ace by junior defensive specialist Bella Dixon. But senior middle blocker Abby Sarich (3 kills, 3 blocks) had a pair of kills and an ace to start a 6-1 burst.
After the Angels crept back within 22-18, White walloped a kill to start a 3-0 game-ending run.
There were seven early ties in the second set. Trailing 9-8, White bookended a 7-0 blitz with kills to start and end it as McAuley pulled away.
“It’s always been McAuley,” said White of where she was going to play in high school. “Now I just want to continue to practice and play well. I’ve been waiting for this.”
So has senior outside hitter Molly McDermott (8 kills, 4 digs, 2 blocks), who had a pair of kills in another 7-0 run that put the Mighty Macs up 23-12 in the final set.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to play,” said McDermott of the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the start of this season by well over six months. So when we got out there, it was just go-time. It’s an awesome feeling and we are just looking to get better.”
McDermott has got better and with her and the other veterans displaying a lot of leadership, this should be a short, but sweet 18-match season for the Mighty Macs.
“Molly has really come into her own,” DeJarld said. “Since sophomore year, she’s grown and so has her all-around game. ”
The Angels (1-2 through March 17) opened the season on the day before with a 25-15, 25-20 victory over Marian Central Catholic.
“McAuley played very confident and made very few mistakes,” Joliet Catholic coach Christine Scheibe said. “They minimized their errors and we did not.”
Senior outside/right-side hitter Connie LeBel added two kills, four digs, and two aces for McAuley against Joliet Catholic. Senior defensive specialist Anna Jaworowski contributed nine digs and two aces, while junior setter Caroline Macander dished out 25 assists and added four digs for the Mighty Macs.
Jillian Gray, a veteran senior outside hitter, had eight kills and six digs to pace Joliet Catholic. Junior outside/right side hitter Crystal Galaviz and senior middle hitter Emily Surin each had 4 kills and 2 blocks, senior setter Ryan Hinshaw passed out 11 assists, and junior libero Natalie Kent added six digs for the Angels, who lost 25-17, 19-25, 25-22 on Wednesday, March 17 to visiting Marian Catholic.
“Just coming out here and playing, it reminds you of how grateful we are to have a season,” McDermott said. “We could get shut down again in a week, so there’s no reason not to come out and play confidently.”
The Macs continued their winning ways March 17 with a 25-16, 25-19 victory over Andrew in Tinley Park. The host Thunderbolts are coached by 2006 McAuley graduate Emily (McGinnis) Connolly, who played on the 2004 State Title team, and then on DeJarld’s first team in the fall of 2005, which placed third in Class AA.
In the Andrew match, Sarich led the way with eight kills and four blocks while White had seven kills and three blocks. LeBel labeled four kills, senior middle blocker Molly Boyd banged four kills and added two blocks, Macander passed out 22 assists, and Navarette had nine digs for McAuley (2-0), which wasn’t scheduled to play again until Monday, March 22 against visiting Fenwick.