Girls volleyball: Uni repeats as Crusader Invitational champ, Wong earns MVP again
Published: Monday, October 5, 2009 - 11:35pm
BUCKLEY — Going into the Crusader Invitational at Buckley Christ Lutheran on Saturday, Uni only had one goal in mind: to win it all.
"Since we won it last year," said senior Michelle Wong, who was MVP of the 2008 tournament, "the team was determined to win no matter what."
This year, under new head coach Elisabeth Pollock, the Illineks gave it their all again and didn't disappoint, successfully defending their title as Wong earned her second straight MVP award.
Four teams competed at the invitational: BCL, Judah Christian, Cornerstone Christian Academy and Uni. The tournament started out with pool play in the morning to determine the seeds of the teams. This involved each school playing every other team in one match.
Uni's first match was against BCL. Just two days prior to the tournament, the Illineks had defeated the Crusaders at Kenney Gym 25-20, 21-25 and 25-23. On Saturday, senior Tuli Bera led the team with 14 digs to beat the host of the invitational 25-17, 25-14.
In the next match, Uni faced Cornerstone Christian Academy. It was the first time this season that the two teams faced off. The Illineks dropped the first set 16-25. But Uni came back in the second 25-23 to split the match.
In the final match of pool play, the Illineks faced crosstown rival Judah Christian. Earlier in the week, Uni had defeated the Tribe in an exciting contest and hoped for a repeat performance. The dynamic duo of senior Rachel Harmon and sophomore Jamie Blue each had four blocks but it was not enough for the win. The Illineks lost both sets, falling 10-25 and 21-25.
The afternoon began the playoffs of the tournament. Uni's 1-1-1 record in pool play gave the team the No. 3 seed. The Illineks were paired with the No. 2 seed for its first playoff game. This meant that Uni would play Judah Christian in back-to-back matches.
"After losing to Judah in the last game of pool play, the team came together and tried to focus on correcting our mistakes," said Wong. "We channeled our focus on winning our first playoff game."
After splitting the first two sets 25-20 and 25-27, Uni fought hard in the tie-breaker set and prevailed 15-10. Senior Chumin Gao had an outstanding 29 digs, and the Illineks headed to the championship game against BCL.
"Since we had already played them [BCL] a lot this season and defeated them every time including that morning, we knew we wouldn't have any difficulties," said Wong, "but the game was still very exciting."
Uni played a spectacular match, beating BCL in straight sets: 25-18, 25-19. Wong led with 16 assists, and Harmon helped out with seven kills to lead the Illineks to the tournament trophy.
In her MVP performance, Wong had a huge impact with 15 aces and 64 assists for the day.
"I wasn't really focused on getting the award; I just really wanted the team to win," said the senior captain. "I feel honored to get MVP again this year, but I was more proud that the team played to its potential and got first."
Uni has five more varsity matches and the Uni JV Invitational before the regular season ends. The Illineks will face Judah Christian once again on Oct. 23 as the team celebrates Senior Night at Kenney Gym.
After their success at the Crusader Invitational, hopes are high for the Illineks to finish the season with another winning record and to continue their strong play into the IHSA Class 2A regionals, which begin the final week of October.
Meanwhile, several Illineks are closing in on recording-breaking individual performances. With 279 assists this year, Wong is nearing the Uni season record of 323, which Ruthie Welch set in 2006.
The season record for blocks is 54, set by Veronica Zych in 2002. Harmon currently has 49, and Jamie Blue has 38.