Dee Dee Galligher couldn’t have been prouder.
The Cathedral High School volleyball coach said the 2017 Lady Irish accomplished significant, memorable achievements during what she called a “find-your-footing” year for the program.
The Irish seniors led all season, and helped a young team grow. They left a legacy.
And for that the group will be remembered.
“It was really a good year,” Galligher said.
The Irish, after back-to-back Class 4A state titles in legendary coach Jean Kesterson’s final two seasons – and after losing a slew of Division I players from the 2015 and 2016 title teams – went 24-11 in 2017 in Galligher’s first season as head coach. Their season ended with a 25-18, 25-22, 27-25 loss to Lawrence North in the Section 10, Class 4A final at Lawrence North on Saturday, September 14.
Cathedral, which won the City Tournament with a over Bishop Chatard (22-25, 25-15, 25-16, 27-25) the week before the sectional, advanced to the sectional title game with victories over Arsenal Tech (25-6, 25-4, 25-8) and Lawrence Central (25-9, 25-17, 25-13).
The Irish won in straight sets over Lawrence North early in the season, but LN recorded 17 blocks in its three-set victory in the sectional final.
“Lawrence North was the best blocking team I’ve seen in many, many years,” Galligher said. “We couldn’t overcome that.”
The Irish’s 2017 seniors: defensive setter Emily Lansing, middle blocker Rachel McDonald, captain/middle hitter/outside hitter Mattie Norris, outside hitter Joey Landeros and captain/middle hitter Emily Kleck. Norris will play collegiately at DePaul University, and McDonald will play at St. Mary’s. Landeros will play at Fordham and Kleck will play at New York University.
“It’s important to carry on that tradition and legacy that Jean had for so many years,” Galligher said. “It’s just so important. They really embraced that, that whatever this season will be, we’re going to make sure that these younger kids are ready for the next several years. They did that throughout the program – at the jayvee levels and freshman levels.
“I don’t know if the seniors quite grasped what they accomplished. I think in a few months they’ll see what great leaders they were, and what their legacy is going to be at Cathedral. Maybe their legacy isn’t winning the state championship as a senior, but their legacy is going to be being great human beings that made these younger kids even better.
“I text them often that they’ll see the big picture soon. That’s my hope and I pray about it a lot, but that’s their legacy.”
Kleck led the Irish starters with a hitting percentage of .409 and had a kill percentage of 47.4. Lansing had 230 digs and junior Rose Meyer led the Irish with 320 digs. Norris had 216 digs and had a “stellar year,” Galligher said.
Norris, Kleck and sophomore middle Trieloff all made the 2017 All-City team with Meyer named honorable mention.
Lansing, who started the season as a right back, played well enough defensively that Galligher said she played the libero role the last half of the season.
“My seniors did an amazing job,” Galligher said.
As valued as the five seniors were on the court, Galligher said they were equally valuable in terms of leadership on and off the court. The Irish for the first time in several seasons depended on underclassmen, with freshman setter Allie Moretton emerging as a starter in her first season.
“She did a great job,” Galligher said of Moretton. “I put her in a high-pressure situation, especially coming off Maria Schorr [now with Dayton]. She just owned that positon and did great.”
Trieloff had a hitting percentage of .371.
“We put a lot of younger kids in situations they hadn’t been in in the last couple of years,” Galligher said. “They did great. I look forward to the next couple of years, and look out for the Irish. They handled it really well and did a great job. They embraced the younger kids and tried to lead them in the Cathedral way and make them great humans: ‘We’re not going to get down. We’re going to keep fighting.’’’
Galligher said the heart of the Irish was exemplified in a 3-2 victory over Roncalli, a match in which the Irish trailed before rallying for the victory. Morreton sustained an elbow injury early in the match, and junior outside hitter Katie Kelley replaced her in the lineup.
“She grabbed the job and led the team,” Galligher said of Kelley. “It was one of those memories you’ll have for a really long time. That was one of those moments of, ‘We’re not going to give up. We’re the Irish. We’re going to fight.’’’
Galligher said it’s that fight that she expects to carry the program forward into what she believes is a bright future.
“[Irish Athletics Director] Doug Seagraves said to me the other day when I walked in, ‘All right, coach: Are you ready?’’’ Galligher said. “I said, ‘What am I ready for?’ He said, ‘Next season starts now.’ I said, ‘Let’s go play. I’m ready.’ I can’t wait to see the growth they have over the club season. We have so many kids who are just so excited about volleyball. It makes me really proud to be at the lead of this.”