The St. Rita Volleyball team entered the season with six returning starters so they knew they had a chance to be a special team.
The team opened up Chicago Catholic League play with an emotional three set win at Loyola (16-25, 30-28, 25-21), which marked the first win in Wilmette since the 2012 season. After the second week of conference play, The Mustangs were the only team left unbeaten, and knew they had their destiny in their own hands. The goal was to take it one match at a time, and get to the final week of league play still in control, which they were able to do.
The Spiking Mustangs went on to beat Mt. Carmel in two sets, (25-14, 25-17), gritted out a three-set match against CCL Blue newcomer, Wheaton St. Francis (23-25, 25-22, 25-20), and then another two-set win over St. Ignatius (25-19, 25-21).
St. Rita Volleyball entered the final week of league play where they were hoping, and after early struggles against Providence, dominated the final two sets for a 17-25, 25-15, 25-17 victory to move to 5-0 in conference and clinch at least a share of the title, their first since 2009, and only the second CCL title in program history. They fell to Br. Rice for the outright title in our last conference match, but are excited about their overall accomplishments.
Led by Senior Setter, Mike Long, who totaled 768 assists on the season, along with 35 blocks and 14 aces. Mike set his career record for assists in a crucial conference match against Wheaton St. Francis, where he dished out 44 assists.
The Mustangs offense was paced all season by Senior Right Side Hitter, Aidan Mitchell (226 kills, 57 blocks, 21 aces) and Junior Middle Blocker, Brendan Murney (182 kills, 72 blocks, 19 aces).
Junior Outside Hitters, Liam Kelly (183 kills, 197 digs, 17 aces) and Sean Coghlan (146 kills, 146 digs, 19 aces), and Senior Middle Blocker, Tim Carroll (116 kills, 60 blocks) were key contributors offensively and defensively all season. Sophomore Libero, Mike Mitchell (192 digs, 14 aces) was called up a few weeks into the season and played a huge role both from the service line and defensively.
The Mustangs finished the 2016 campaign with a 22-15 (5-1 in CCL) record and won their first Regional Championship since '13 against the fourth seed--Stagg 25-21, 25-22. They fell to Sandburg, who would go on to take third place in the State Tournament, at the St. Laurence Sectional.
The Spiking Mustangs had Five All-Conference Selections this year--Seniors Mike Long and Aidan Mitchell, and Juniors Sean Coghlan, Liam Kelly, and Brendan Murney.
Junior Middle Blocker Brendan Murney was named to the Daily Southtown All-Area Second team, while Senior Aidan Mitchell was an honorable mention.
Head Coach, Brian Hagen, '04, was awarded his first Lawless Award for Most Outstanding Coach in the Catholic League Blue Division.
The St. Rita Mustangs Volleyball program is also excelling in the classroom, as they have earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for the second year in a row. They are one of only 23 boys high school volleyball teams in the entire nation to earn this prestigious award--with a 3.8 cumulative team GPA.
The Mustangs return four starters next season, and along with some strong rising juniors, will be ready to defend their Catholic League crown, and look to advance deep into the state playoffs.