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Luke Brannigan, Marist ease to sectional title

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Marist’s Luke Brannigan knew what was at stake.

When the RedHawks racked up 98 wins but were stopped all three years in the sectional, the senior outside hitter was on the junior varsity for a season and on the varsity for two more.

“I was talking with Marty Canavan the other day,” Brannigan said of his former teammate. “And he said, ‘I don’t want to go to (watch) the sectional final game because we’re cursed.”

Consider that curse lifted.

Brannigan came up with six kills and five digs Tuesday night to help lead the host RedHawks to a 25-13, 25-13 victory over Jones in the Marist Sectional championship match in Chicago.

Ohio State commit Christian Teresi added seven kills, 11 assists and five aces for Marist (36-2). Ethan Kuziela had six kills and eight assists, while Nathen Toth tallied four kills and four aces and Rory Donnelly chipped in with 11 digs. Dallas Birkenbeuel led Jones (27-11) with five kills.

Marist, ranked No. 2 in the nation in the latest USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, is making its first trip to the quarterfinals since winning the state championship in 2019. The RedHawks play at 11:30 a.m. Friday against Payton (25-13) in Hoffman Estates.

The Southland will have two teams at state as Lincoln-Way West (32-7) moved on with a 25-18, 27-29, 26-24 victory over Belleville East (33-5) to win the Collinsville Sectional. The Warriors will take on York (35-4) at 2 p.m. Friday in another quarterfinal.

Marist's Luke Brannigan spikes the through a pair Jones blockers in the Marist Sectional final in Chicago on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Marist’s Luke Brannigan hit the ball through the block against Jones during the Marist Sectional championship match in Chicago on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

After Lincoln-Way East put up the sectional roadblock for Marist in 2021 and 2022, Brother Rice upended the RedHawks last season. Brannigan was determined to not let that happen again.

“Getting over the hump this year is special for our program,” Brannigan said. “This group of seniors is very special to me. I’m really proud of us.”

There are plenty of power-packed hitters in Marist’s lineup. Still, Brannigan accepts his role.

“I’m not going to be the guy who is getting 20 kills a game or bouncing balls to the ceiling,” Brannigan said. “But I know I can contribute to this team and be a huge part of it.”

Marist's Christian Teresi (2) serves against Jones in the Marist Sectional final in Chicago on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Marist’s Christian Teresi (2) serves against Jones during the Marist Sectional championship match in Chicago on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Brannigan is giving up volleyball to attend Miami of Ohio and major in kinesiology. So, this is it for him, and his peers notice he’s making the most of his final season playing the sport.

“He brings a lot of talent to the team,” Teresi said. “The way he is a leader on the team helps out a lot. He’s been our captain the last two years and he holds all of us accountable of what we should be doing or shouldn’t be doing.”

Marist coach Jordan Vidovic pointed out that Brannigan is a valuable player.

“He does it all across the court,” Vidovic said. “He does so many of the things that nobody would notice. That’s huge.

“In our best years, we’ve had guys who have stepped up and done the dirty work when they needed to make other guys to look good. It’s a super-selfless attitude, and he gives that every day.”

Marist's Luke Brannigan (11) gets low for a dig on a Jones serve during the Marist Sectional final in Chicago on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Marist’s Luke Brannigan gets down low for a dig against Jones during the Marist Sectional championship match in Chicago on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Marist won state championships in 2002, 2010 and 2019, and Brannigan is hoping the RedHawks can end the week bringing home a fourth title. He thinks Marist has the right mentality.

“We had a lot of preparation even before the season started,” Brannigan said. “This year, more than any other year that I’ve been a part of this program, we’ve been prepared mentally and leadership-wise in the offseason.

“During the girls season, I had an amazing experience managing for them. I really got to understand being on the players’ side and getting to know what the coaches’ mentality is.”

Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.



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