For Morgan Park Academy coach Tom Daker and three of his stars, Thursday’s sectional championship was six years in the making.
“Rachel (Sorfleet), Sam (Panozzo) and Isabelle (Panozzo), they’ve been playing together for six years,” Daker said. “I started the Beverly Volleyball Club because of those girls. I saw the talent and I knew I had to utilize it. I didn’t care if the club only had one team. I knew it was a special group.”
After winning regional titles but falling short in sectionals for seven straight seasons, the Warriors got over the hump Thursday, rolling past Parker 25-11, 25-13 in the Class 2A Marine Military Academy Sectional championship.
Morgan Park Academy (21-8), which won the second sectional title in program history and first since 2005, will meet Immaculate Conception in Saturday’s Lisle Supersectional.
Isabelle Panozzo (10 kills, 4 digs), Katelyn Healy (8 kills, 4 aces) and Sam Panozzo (14 assists) led the Warriors.
Leigh Logan (3 kills, ace) and Anita Kolton (2 kills, 2 aces) paced Parker (9-10).
“This has been our goal all four years,” Healy said. “It’s unreal. Sam delivers every single ball. She’s the (Independent School League) Player of the Year, and I wouldn’t change anything with her.”
The Warriors appeared well on their way to the Elite Eight after a 10-0 run, which included two aces and a kill from Isabelle Panozzo, gave them a 10-2 lead in Game 2.
The scrappy Colonels would not go away, though, closing within four on three different occasions.
Isabelle Panozzo delivered the final knockout punches, with three kills during a 6-1 run that put the game away for good.
Morgan Park Academy proved to have far too much firepower at the serving line, finishing with 12 aces.
Every day we practice serving and it definitely showed,” Isabelle Panozzo said. “The last three years, we got (to sectionals) and it came down to a hard match. (Thursday), we brought our ‘A” game.”
Morgan Park Academy pulled away in Game 1 with a 6-0 run that made it a 22-10 lead. Healy had four aces in the game.
“(Morgan Park Academy) came out swinging,” Parker coach Meg Meyrer said. “They had a tremendous offense and we got beat a bit with fundamentals. We’ve won back-to-back regional championships now and I’m so proud of what the program has accomplished.”
Brittney McKnight added two aces for the Warriors.
“These girls are so fun to watch,” Daker said. “I’m lucky to be a part of it. I’m the luckiest man in the world.”