The progress continues, and so does the building.
That was the theme for Cathedral High School girls volleyball in 2021 – a season in which the Irish again navigated one of the state’s toughest schedules on the way to a solid showing in the postseason.
That didn’t necessarily mean a satisfying season in Mary Hemer’s third season as coach.
It did mean a successful one.
“In all positions around the court we made huge progress,” Hemer said.
The Irish, long one of the state’s top high school girls volleyball programs, finished 20-13 in 2021 against a schedule that featured some of Indiana’s top programs. The Irish also turned in a methodical, impressive performance en route to the City Title and won the Class 4A, Section 10 title for a third consecutive season.
They beat swept through the sectional tournament without losing a set, beating Warren Central (first round), North Central (semifinal) and New Palestine (title match). The Irish beat Heritage Christian and Bishop Chatard to win the City Title.
“We were on a mission, and it was awesome to see the girls that focused and that determined throughout the match,” Hemer said of the city title.
Another season highlight: A 3-2 victory over Center Grove, with the Irish rallying from a 2-0 deficit.
“The steps the girls have taken and the progress our returners had was obvious, which is great,” Hemer said. “It was measurable. Every position grew a ton. We improved as the season went on, which is always what you’re looking for.”
Irish girls volleyball in ’21 was led by a strong senior class that included:
*Katie Bremer, a captain and middle blocker/setter/outside hitter whose versatility was critical. “She was just solid throughout the season,” Hemer said “If we couldn’t do anything else, we got the ball to Katie and she did something with it. She was unstoppable in a lot of matches.”
*Caroline Kubacki, a captain and libero who Hemer called “unreal” and who played much of the season with a foot injury. “She was just our rock in serve/receive,” Hemer said. “She quietly went about her business. She was a lot of the time behind the scenes and did all of it basically on a broken foot. It’s unreal she was able to do it the way she did. I can’t say enough for that.”
*Kelsey Bailey, a captain who hit and set and played defensive setter this season after setting last season. “We told her, ‘We’re not really sure what position,’’’ Hemer said. “She said, ‘I don’t care. I just want to play. I’ll do whatever the team needs.’ She stood by that.”
*Raven Rayford, a captain played a key role after being cut in 2020. “She came back this summer and worked her tail off and really cemented her spot in this senior class and on this team just because of who she is and the leadership she has,” Hemer said. “With her work ethic and who she is, she cemented a spot on this team. That speaks volumes of her character. She was really unreal mentally,”
Of the seniors, Hemer said, “They enjoy being around each other. That’s across the board, not just the seniors. They enjoy being in the gym every day together, and that just makes a world of difference. It’s a great group of girls but I think it really attributes to the seniors and who they are and how they are in the gym.
“I’m proud of all four of them in general. They were really, honestly, the people that shaped this season and led this team this season. It was really awesome to have and see that.
“I will definitely miss them a lot next year.”
The Irish in ’21 were a mix of youth and experience, a mix that bodes well for next season and beyond, with junior setter Mallory Dills and sophomore Taylor Lewis continuing to develop into top players for the future.
Dills, after hitting as a sophomore, ran the offense and set – and registered more than 900 assists.
“There’s no way we could attack the way we do without Mallory Dills,” Hemer said. “Nine hundred assists in a season on which our offense wasn’t always firing because of our opponents … the numbers are big, but when you think about who we’re playing, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. They’re really impressive because we have such a tough schedule.’
“There’s a lot of stuff to learn and she took it in stride and did a great job. I’m excited to see her come back as a senior and what she’ll be able to do.”
Hemer also said defensive setter Caiti Barthel could be key next season – “it will be interesting to see what she looks like as senior,” Hemer said – and that Lewis emerged as a potential elite player late in the season.
“Taylor is 10-footing balls,” Hemer said. “She’s doing things we haven’t had anyone do in the program for a while. She’s a middle who can play anywhere on the court. The sky’s the limit with Taylor.”
And Hemer said while the strong senior class will be missed, they will leave behind not only the memory of a solid season – but the knowledge that they continued setting the tone for the program to reestablish itself as one of the state’s best.
“It’s one step at a time,” Hemer said. “It’s not the end of the season result we’re going for, but we’re a few points from taking some of these bigger matches at the end of the season. We’ve got a lot of talent even not on the varsity team. We have a lot of talent sitting on the freshman and jayvee teams.
“We have a lot of talent on the varsity returning. It’s going to be really exciting.”