Fenwick senior Shannon O’Laughlin bumps the ball during the IHSA Class 3A girls volleyball sectional finals against Nazareth Academy on Nov. 2. O’Laughlin had 6 kills and 10 digs in the Friars’ season-ending 19-25, 25-27 defeat. | Carol Dunning/Contributor

The Fenwick High School girls volleyball team led late in the second set against Nazareth Academy during the title match of the IHSA Class 3A Little Village Sectional Nov. 2, needing one more point to force a deciding third set.

Unfortunately, that point never came. The Roadrunners, the sectional’s top seed and defending 3A champions, rallied to take the set and win the match 25-19, 27-25. Nazareth advanced to the Trinity Supersectional, where they beat St. Viator for their third consecutive trip to the state finals.

“It’s a tough one,” said Fenwick coach Kathleen O’Laughlin. “It was a great match by all the kids. Nazareth has a great team and hopefully they go on to win it; we’ll be pulling for them.”

Fenwick (17-20), the No. 2 seed at Little Village, started the match by scoring the first four points. But Nazareth (20-16) responded with six consecutive points of its own and gradually took control, partly due to a few uncharacteristic hitting errors by the Friars.

Fenwick senior Maeve Welsh sets up a ball during an IHSA Class 3A girls volleyball sectional final against Nazareth Academy November 2. The Friars lost 19-25, 25-27 to end the season 17-20. | Carol Dunning/Contributor

In the second set, Fenwick again took an early lead, but again the Roadrunners came roaring back. However, this time the Friars countered with a strong push that gave them a 24-21 lead. 

Fenwick served for the set, needing one last point to force a deciding final set. But Nazareth ran off four consecutive points and wound up with a match point. 

After the Friars fended off that point, the Roadrunners’ Lauren Salata and Tori Sarin came up with consecutive kills to clinch the sectional title.

“I was hopeful we’d get the second set,” O’Laughlin said. “We got caught in one of their best rotations, and it was easy for them to take advantage. If we had gotten to that third set, anything could’ve happened.”

Senior Erin East led Fenwick with 10 kills. Senior Shannon O’Laughlin (Kathleen’s daughter) had six kills and nine digs, senior Maeve Welsh 15 assists, and senior Annie Larson four blocks.

Fenwick junior Hazel Davis receives the ball during an IHSA Class 3A girls volleyball sectional final against Nazareth Academy November 2. The Friars lost 19-25, 25-27 to end the season 17-20. | Carol Dunning/Contributor

The loss ended up being the last match for O’Laughlin as the Friars’ coach. She had announced her retirement earlier this year.

“She’s done amazing things for girls high school volleyball,” Nazareth coach Melissa Masterson said. “Fenwick has been an unbelievable program, and Kathleen’s retiring gave them added motivation. It definitely wasn’t the team we wanted to play.”

The Fenwick job is sure to be coveted thanks to the efforts of O’Laughlin. Whoever takes over next fall will have a solid nucleus to build around as six players return, including juniors Hazel Davis and Lola Tortorello.

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