Enormous, critical strides were taken.
Cathedral High School girls volleyball, a longtime state power, reestablished that reputation in 2023. The Irish did so against one of the state’s best schedules and bonded memorably as a team.
That made the season special as the Irish moved back to state prominence.
“I think we moved the needle,” Karrie Quenichet said.
The Irish girls volleyball program in Quenichet’s second season as head coach did that and more, finishing with a 29-5 record and advancing to the regional tournament at Greenfield-Central. The Irish lost in a semifinal there, 3-2, to Yorktown.
“We didn't want to disappoint the Cathedral community,” Quenichet said. “They've all been so supportive because of the way we played and how fun we were to watch. People were feeling like I was, they wanted it to last longer.”
The Irish finished the regular season No. 2 in the Indiana High School Volleyball Coaches Association Class 4A rankings.
“The biggest comment I got from people all season long that came to watch us was, ‘Your group really seems like they love each other and they're having a blast,’’’ Quenichet said. “That's what it felt like, being on the sidelines with them.
“That's what makes the ending so much harder. It wasn’t so much that we fell short of a state championship but that we didn't want it to end because it was just a blast. It just flowed well. They were very impressive.”
Added Quenichet, “I know the progress we made. That's the part we have to focus on. “
The Irish throughout the season gained confidence and reestablished themselves as a state-title contender, a process Quenichet said wasn’t always easy. The Irish after a 6-0 start lost to national power Louisville Assumption then lost twice in four days to rival and Indianapolis power Roncalli.
They won 17 of 18 matches after that, with the only loss during that span coming 3-1 to nationally-ranked Hamilton Southeastern.
“That was a big turning point in changing our focus to executing on our side of the net, and I felt like that was a real mental shift that this group needed,” Quenichet said of the early losses to Roncalli. “Every group is different. Every set of girls is different. Once they started thinking about things that way, it kind of fell hand in hand with what we had already kind of established with the seniors and their legacy working on what's coming up behind them.
“They all took that to heart and just focused on getting that determination together. We had so many weapons. They really started to enjoy that. They got happy for each other. They wanted to do their part in that sequence to see the smiles on everyone else's face.”
The Irish in ’23 were a mix of youth, experience talent and leadership led by a strong senior class. The seniors:
*Addison Bakemeyer, a defensive specialist who had 298 digs as a senior and more than 500 in her career.
*Jordan Peter, an outside hitter who had 11 kills and 31 digs as a senior.
*Taylor Lewis, an outsider hitter who led the Irish with 394 kills and 50 aces as a senior. She finished her career with more than 500 digs and 1,000 kills.
*Kamryn Utley, a setter who distributed more than 2,000 assists in her career.
The Irish also featured a strong, deep group of underclassmen. That group included juniors Josie Myers and Kate Kubacki along with Ryleigh Plunkitt, Mackenzie Land and Ava Skonning – and a strong sophomore class that included Mia Stubbs, Avery Lewis, Annabelle Hoban.
Four freshmen – Chloe Moss, Hayden Mandsager, Caroline Hancher and Sophia Farah – also contributed significantly to a team that learned throughout the season the benefits of focusing on team and overall approach.
“We got through hard times together,” Quenichet said. “We played five sets so many times last year and fell short. We took the focus off of that and put it on putting the pieces together without thinking about the outcome, kind of being more process-oriented instead of outcome oriented. That really helped.”
Quenichet said while the end of season was difficult, the overall season was satisfying because the program regained confidence and swagger.
“Those of us who have coached for a long time remember Cathedral being the confident ones walking into the building,” she said. “That paradigm shifted somewhere. The girls [in the 2022 season] were under-respecting themselves and over-respecting the opponent. It was almost like spotting the other team five points before we even played. Teams we played definitely had an advantage against us mentally because of that.
“We got that back and we turned some of those series. We know where we started from and we know where we've ended this season. We know we got better last year. We know we got even better this year. We feel like we're trending in the right direction.
“It's bigger than volleyball and it's bigger than wins and losses. That's the foundation that we're trying to lay with this program.”