There’s something about the way the Kellenberg girls volleyball team responds from a timeout. Even when trailing, and sometimes in the sloppiest of ways, the Firebirds immediately pick up the intensity after breaking the huddle.
Madison Gale sparked Kellenberg’s ascent from its low points more so than others, diving across the court and sending a contagious energy to her teammates.
Gale, named the CHSAA Player of the Year, had 48 assists, lifting No. 2 Kellenberg to its third straight CHSAA championship with a 25-23, 25-19, 22-25, 25-20 win over top-seeded Sacred Heart at St. Dominic on Tuesday night.
Kellenberg will play in the Catholic League state tournament Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Anthony’s.
“Madison is the heart and soul of this team,” coach Cathy von Schoenermarck said. “She makes everything better. There’s no such thing as a shanked pass when she’s on the court because she chases it down and comes up with some super-athletic play that keeps it going.”
Gale’s exuberant play trickled down to Grace Cullen (16 kills), Trinity Manning (10), Tara Hagerman (three), Molly Perrotta (36 digs) and Colleen Moulder (five blocks). Libero Katie Sweeney provided stability along the back row with 40 digs.
Each was integral in steadying the Firebirds, who started the opening set slowly. They trailed 19-12, but a well-called timeout by von Schoenermarck at 13-6 incited a comeback.
“We each found our motivation,” Gale said. “My motivation was playing for each and every one of my teammates and coaches.”
Those strategic timeouts were utilized again and again thought a grueling match against Sacred Heart, which unexpectedly put together an excellent season after a 4-6 campaign last year.
Emily Barry and Riley Leimbach put constant pressure on Kellenberg (12-3), but the Firebirds didn’t buckle. Their messages during timeouts and the pregame huddle helped keep them focused.
Cullen, the tournament MVP, said she and Gale gave quotes to motivate the team before the game. Cullen’s was simple: “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”
Kellenberg parlayed that opportunity into a third consecutive league title. It just took a little coaxing when the going got rough.
“We try not to concentrate on outcome,” von Schoenermarck said. “We try to just worry about that individual point, and you could see in Game 3, we started to think about the end of the match and we stopped executing the individual point.”
When they did rein it in and focus on the task ahead, Kellenberg was in championship form.