The 2020 season was about beating adversity.
Specifically, it was about sacrifice and overcoming injury. Cathedral High School girls volleyball did both in 2020 while taking steps forward under Head Coach Mary Hemer – and Hemer said all that made it hard to see the season end.
“It really was a full team – and even program – effort,” Hemer said.
The Irish (12-14), playing one of Central Indiana’s toughest schedules, lost two key players – including senior leader/outside hitter Sarah Casper. Despite that, they won the Class 4A, Section 10 tournament at Cathedral – improving as the season continued and peaking at season’s end.
“The girls got better every day,” Hemer said. “It was palpable at the end of the season. You could see the progress. It was really awesome to see them get in the groove.”
The Irish beat North Central 19-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-16 in the section semifinal then beat Lawrence North in the final 25-12, 25-22, 25-23. The Irish’s season ended with a 25-14, 25-23, 25-17 loss to Yorktown in the Class 4A Region 3 semifinal at Greenfield-Central on October 24.
“They saw an opportunity to win a championship and they brought it against LN,” Hemer said. “That’s the first time they felt in sync. It’s goosebumps to think about what it sounded like, what it felt like. To have the girls have that experience was really awesome.”
The program faced more than injuries in Hemer’s second season as head coach. Like many athletic programs at all levels, the Irish faced COVID-19 concerns throughout the fall. Hemer said the program handled these well, including a rule that no one in the program could attend football games.
The Irish varsity and junior varsity played their entire schedule, and the freshman team lost just one week.
“There were a lot of sacrifices made,” Hemer said. “It shows you the leadership. They were willing to make sacrifices. That’s a big deal. That means a lot to me about who we have in the program.”
In addition to losing Casper for the season to an early September injury, the Irish two weeks later lost junior middle backer/right setter Campbell Mahurin. Both players were leaders, with Hemer calling Casper’s loss “a huge hit.”
“She was the majority of our offense last year (as a junior) and she was the primary passer last year and really looked like she would be doing the same if not better this season,” Hemer said. “Losing her during a practice was definitely hard. It was mentally tough for the seniors and it was physically tough for underclassmen to step in.
“The team just looked different after that point. You can’t really have one person step into a role when the player does what Sarah Casper has done. It was definitely a team effort to fill in holes and figure out how to best compete with her on the court.”
The loss of Mahurin took away another leader on and off the court, Hemer said.
“She’s a different energy,” Hemer said. “She’s super-focused on the team and can always make people laugh. She reads the room and reads the team. She’s a great neutralizer for energy, which when you have young girls on the court is great to have. Losing them was a lot, but the girls rallied.”
Keying the Irish were two other senior captains: libero Lucia Corsaro and opposite Mia Finn. Largely as a backup as a junior, Finn emerged as a front-line player who played the right side much of her senior season.
“She set up a block perfectly,” Hemer said. “The morning of the regionals, she completely came into her own. She just brought it and played like a senior. It was awesome to see the growth and the confidence.”
Corsaro also emerged as a leader, stepping up during difficult times late in the season along with Finn.
“Lu was the anchor back there and has been for two years,” Hemer said. “You can’t put a price on her. She’s the heart and the soul and the drive back there a lot of the time.”
Hemer said junior middle Katie Bremer became an offensive force in Casper’s absence, and the Irish also got strong performances from underclassmen such as sophomore Mallory Dills, junior Caroline Kubacki and junior Kelsey Bailey, freshman Taylor Lewis and sophomore Caiti Barthel.
“It wasn’t just one person,” Hemer said. “We had a lot of young players step in. The girls just took it in stride. We had seniors step up. We had younger underclassman step up. They were put in taxing positions and they were all game. We had a different lineup that I have never seen before, but it worked for us.
“It was awesome to see the girls embrace that and get after it. It had to be a group effort.”
Hemer said the end result was another step forward in building the program, a step that came in a season that was memorable and successful – but in no way easy.
“The girls are understanding what we’re doing, why we’re doing it,” Hemer said. “It was so much better. It was not perfect and we definitely learned a lot. The girls bought in and it’s rebuilding a program culture. It’s really awesome to see the girls want to be a part of that and want to be part if the foundation of that. It’s huge.”