Gigi Navarrete, a Mother McAuley volleyball standout heading to Northwestern, was named the nation's best player in a vote administered by Scorebook.com. Mother McAuley photo

Gigi Navarrete, a Mother McAuley volleyball standout heading to Northwestern, was named the nation's best player in a vote administered by Scorebook.com. Mother McAuley photo

Area Sports Roundup: Mother McAuley’s Gigi Navarette voted best player in the U.S.

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

It was Navar in doubt.

Mother McAuley senior Gigi Navarrete easily won a public vote conducted by Scorebook Live for best high school girls volleyball player in the country. Of 30,761 votes cast, 16,197 (53%) were for the Mighty Macs libero.

Coming in a distant second was Ava Safara of Marian (Michigan), who picked up 9,606 votes (31%).

The McAuley community voted early and often, and while some may write the poll off as an unscientific popularity contest, Navarrete had some great numbers to back up the honor. The Northwestern recruit racked up 613 digs, 396 successful serve receptions and 42 aces during the 2022 season, while helping the Macs to their 16th state championship

She also compiled a laundry list of accomplishments.

Nazarrete, of Palos Heights, was a 2022 American Volleyball Coaches Association First Team All-American and was ranked as the Prep Dig Illinois No. 2 overall player. During club season, she was named to the Junior Volleyball Association All-National Team twice. She was also named the Girls Catholic Athletic Red Conference Player of the Year.

Northwestern is coached by Shane Davis, a former Loyola University men’s volleyball coach. The Wildcats finished 18-14 this season, Davis’ first winning season in his seven-year tenure.

Junior Leilani Dodson, a Nazareth graduate, played for the Wildcats this season.

 

Richards assistant dies
Longtime assistant Richards football coach John Rutkowski, a former teacher at Argo and a University of  Illinois-Chicago football Hall of Famer, died Dec. 15. He was 80 years old.

Rutkowski was an assistant for the Bulldogs during the 1980s when the team won back-to-back state Class 4A state championships. His son, also named John, was the quarterback for the 1989 state championship team.

“Coach was a great man,” Richards coach Tony Sheehan tweeted. “He did more for Richards football than anyone will ever know. I am very lucky to have had him as a mentor and more so as a friend. I miss and love you Coach!”

It’s been a rough December in the area. Nazareth sophomore baseball coach Mario Ortiz died on Dec. 7 and Marist boys track and cross country coach Jon Gordon died on Dec. 9.

 

SXU men’s volleyball ranked
Saint Xavier entered the season ranked 12th in the NAIA Men’s Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Top 15 poll.

The Cougars were 26-11 last season. Zach Carroll (St. Rita), Andrew Kopinski (Marist) and Jake McClain (Marist) are area players on the roster. They also have two freshmen from Poland and one from Puerto Rico who are hoping to make an impact.

SXU is the lone team in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference to break the top 15. Olivet Nazarene and Calumet College of St. Joseph picked up votes.

Defending national champion Grand View (Iowa) is ranked first.

The Cougars opens the season Jan. 27 at No. 6 Georgetown College (Kentucky).

 

Perfecto for Ramiro
Oak Lawn senior Ramiro Garcia rolled the first 300 game of his high school career in a 2,094-1,975 South Suburban Conference win over Oak Forest Thursday night at Oak Forest Bowl.

“It was electric at the bowling alley and nerve-racking to watch him pull it off,” Spartans coach Kevin Walery said.

Oak Lawn finished the conference season 12-1 and will compete in the conference tournament Jan. 7.

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