Marist volleyball players celebrate a victory over Lincoln-Way East to win their own 24-team tournament on Saturday. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Marist volleyball players celebrate a victory over Lincoln-Way East to win their own 24-team tournament on Saturday. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Boys Volleyball: Marist beats Lincoln-Way East in battle of national powers

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

High rankings do not mean a whole lot to Kellen O’Keefe.

The Marist senior hitter was well aware the RedHawks were recently ranked 14th in the nation in a USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association poll in mid-March.

But minutes after the RedHawks won their own 24-team tournament with a 21-25, 25-20, 25-21 victory over 15th-ranked Lincoln-Way East on March 26, he gave his thoughts on rankings.

“It’s nice to look at but rankings don’t win the game,” he said. “The scoreboard doesn’t know who is ranked higher. We knew that last year. We were ranked ahead of them last year and we lost that game [in the Marist Sectional final].

“It doesn’t matter.”

What does matter is that O’Keefe was named the tournament MVP. In five matches, he had 30 kills, 42 digs, five aces and seven blocks. Junior Marty Canavan pounded down 43 kills and added 10 blocks.

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Marist’s Kellen O’Keefe gets ready for a kill attempt against Lincoln-Way East on Saturday. He was named the Marist Tournament’s MVP.

Brendan Schoeberl had 53 digs, five aces and 18 assists, while Mike Uldrych chipped in with 21 kills and 10 blocks and freshman setter Christian Teresi had 102 assists.

Marist opened the tournament March 25 with a 20-25, 25-19, 15-11 nail-biter over St. Ignatius and followed it up with a 25-14, 25-8 win over Elk Grove to win its pool.

In the Gold bracket, the RedHawks beat O’Fallon 24-26, 25-18, 25-17 in the quarterfinals and Plainfield East 25-23, 25-15 in the semifinals.

Marist opened the season March 23 with a 23-25, 25-12, 25-13 victory over Sandburg in Orland Park. That started a trend as the RedHawks lost the first game in four of their first six matches, with them winning five of those matches in three games.

“We were just trying to figure it out and see how we work together,” Canavan said after the Sandburg game. “We had to clean up our basics like passing, the serving and things like that. After we got that down, it was like ‘let’s play like we do in practice.’ That’s how we came out in the next game.”

Marist coach Jordan Vidovic chalks some of the early match woes to inexperience.

“This is the least experience we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Vidovic said. “We’re going to have to work through some things. But we don’t have any real expectations and that’s the cool part.”

St. Rita, which made it to the state quarterfinals three straight seasons (2018, 2019, 2021; state tournament was not held in 2020) finished seventh at the Marist tourney.

Richards won the Bronze championship, Shepard took fourth and Mount Carmel finished fifth.

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Marist’s boys volleyball team huddle up moments before the start of the season in a matchup against Sandburg in Orland Park on March 23.

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