The votes have been tallied, and IHSA Girls Volleyball fans have picked the top IHSA state championship matches from four different eras!
In late September, the IHSA and COUNTRY Financial announced the creation of the COUNTRY Financial Vintage Games series, which is debuting in the fall of 2020 with girls volleyball. The goal is to recognize the rich tradition of high school girls volleyball in Illinois by crowning the best state championship matches from the 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s and 2010’s.
Over 31,000 votes were tallied across IHSA.org and social media from October 1 through October 4.
The winning matches will be aired as a part of a special rebroadcast, including new retrospective interviews and content, on the NFHS Network. The 1980’s and 1990’s matches will air on Friday, November 13, with the 2000’s and 2010’s era winners airing on Saturday, November 14.
The top match from each era per the fan voting…
1981 Class AA: Mother McAuley 2, Carl Sandburg 0 (15-9, 15-13)
The 1981 state championship match helped launch one of the great dynasties in IHSA history. Mother McAuley won its first girls volleyball state title in 1977, and returned for number two in 1980. The 1981 final would mark the school’s first back-to-back crowns, and the coronation of the program’s rise to national prominence, as the Mighty Macs would appear in five more title matches in the 1980’s, winning four. Head coach May Anne Malone and the Mighty Macs entered the state finals with a state-record 74-match winning streak, which they extended to 77 that weekend in Springfield (it would eventually grow to 135, still a state record). The undefeated Mighty Macs rolled to a 15-9 victory over Sandburg in the first set, and jumped out to a 6-0 advantage in game two behind the play of standouts Deirdre Connolly and Therese Boyle. Sandburg tightened things up with five straight points and stayed close down the stretch. With a 14-13 lead, Sharon Kuchan served match point for McAuley and Sandburg’s return spike sailed out of bounds to start the repeat celebration.
1996 Class AA: Downers Grove South 2, Mother McAuley 1 (15-12, 10-15, 15-13)
The 1996 state championship was a clash of Illinois high school volleyball titans. Mother McAuley entered the ’96 state tourney in search of its third consecutive state title and fourth championship in five seasons. Downers Grove South had won four consecutive state final trophies, but a state championship remained allusive. DGS took the first set 15-12 and the Mighty Macs evened things up with a 15-10 final in the second game. Head coach Denise Kavanaugh’s DGS squad dominated the third set early, taking leads of 3-0 and 7-3, before McAuley made its run and the teams ended up tied at 10-10, 11-11, and 12-12. DGS All-State setter Liz Ortegel (37 assists) set star Chantel Reedus (16 kills) to give DGS a 13-12 lead, and minutes later fellow Mustang standout Colleen Daly (10 kills) delivered the service ace to give the Mustangs the title via a 15-13 winner. The two teams would meet again in the 1997 state title match, with Mother McAuley extracting revenge in another sensational three-set match. Meanwhile, DGS went on to win two more (1999, 2002) state titles under Kavanaugh.
2008 Class 1A: Eastland 2, A-C Central 1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-23)
Both teams entered the 2008 state title match in search of their first state title in program history and delivered a match worthy of a championship. Eastland took the first set 25-22 behind the play of Megan Bunyer (14 kills) and Courtney Blair (13 kills), while Brittany Stribling (19 kills) and A-C Central responded to take the second game 25-21. The decisive third set saw big momentum shifts back and forth. Early on, Eastland led 5-2, only to see A-C Central rally to a 9-6 advantage. Sidney Kane’s lone kill of the match made it 22-18 Eastland, but the Lady Knights responded with three straight points. Eastland took a 24-21 lead when Hope Linker put down a kill on a pass from her sister Damaris, but again A-C Central responded with back-to-back points, before a service error ended the epic match. Eastland and head coach Kristy Pierce returned to Redbird Arena the next November, where they repeated as Class 1A state champions, again doing so in a three-set thriller.
2010 Class 1A: Heyworth 2, Scales Mound 1 (22-25, 25-18, 26-24)
Scales Mound was on the brink of becoming the smallest school in IHSA history to win a team state championship, but Heyworth remained relentless in achieving its first-ever state title. The third set was an unforgettable affair, featuring 17 ties and 10 lead changes. Scales Mound appeared ready to prevail when it pushed its lead to 24-20 on Nicole Winter’s (17 kills) service ace. However, Heyworth star Dakota Springer (18 kills, 14 digs) responded with back-to-back kills, sparking a 5-0 Heyworth run that gave Heyworth a 25-24 lead and match point opportunity. Cassidy Kingery served match point for head coach Andrea Vogel’s squad, starting a marathon point that saw Scales Mound get six chances at the tying kill. Heyworth turned back all six attempts and the seventh attack sailed out-of-bounds to clinch the state championship for the Hornets. Current LA Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis, who replaced Hall of Famer Vin Scully, was on the call for the epic match.