LINCOLN PARK — Loyola Academy Ramblers volleyball coach Mark Chang wonders if his team's leader, Katie Randolph, has actually benefited from the combined two-hour commute she takes to and from Lincoln Park to the Wilmette school each day.
"I have to imagine those that commute to Loyola from the city are forced to learn patience, tolerance and grit, and Katie has all of the above," said Chang, a Loyola University Chicago graduate.
Randolph, the junior starting setter on the team, has guided the school's volleyball team to its first IHSA state finals on Friday night, when her Ramblers (27-9) face Libertyville (34-6) in a Class 4A state semifinal at Redbird Arena in Normal. The winner faces either Normal Community or Benet Academy in Saturday's championship match.
"It's not fun to get up an hour earlier than everyone else and then take an hour to get home, but it's worth it," said Randolph.
Justin Breen says the school is packed with Chicagoans:
Randolph's commute, though, actually isn't that out of the ordinary among students enrolled at the suburban Jesuit high school. Of the 2,050 students enrolled, 40 percent are Chicagoans, according to Loyola's vice president of admissions and enrollment Genevieve Atwood.
Chang said Randolph, the team's starting center since her freshman year, "strikes a perfect balance of athleticism, acumen and character." She leads Loyola with 474 assists while adding 147 digs, 46 kills and 19 aces.
Her longtime club coach, Chicago Elite director Joel Anderson, called Randolph an "exceptional leader."
Randolph "has the work ethic needed not only for her own success but also to lead a team," said Anderson, of Uptown, and also the coach at Walter Payton College Prep. "She's one of the top setters in the state."
Randolph might have been destined to play the position. Her mother, Laurie, an Edison Park native, was a setter at Resurrection College Prep High School. Laurie Randolph, an attorney downtown, met her husband, Rob when they were on the same law firm volleyball team.
Randolph started playing volleyball as a child with her parents and older brother, recent Loyola grad Matthew, at Montrose Beach. The family continues to have two-on-two games there and the sand courts at Wrightwood Park near their home.
She attended Loyola to follow in Matthew's footsteps, and because "she wanted to play volleyball in a big program," Laurie Randolph said.
"And the school works very hard to make every kid successful and feel good about themselves," said Laurie Randolph, a DePaul College of Law alumna.
Randolph is obsessed with the sport, even serving as a volunteer coach for the fifth- and sixth-grade team at her grade-school alma mater, St. Clement School.
She wants to compete at the next level and is looking at a few Ivy League and Division III schools.
"From the time I was 5, I wanted to play college volleyball," Randolph said. "It was never a question: I just always knew I was going to play volleyball."
The Ramblers leave Thursday for Normal, and Randolph is still on cloud nine with the squad's historic accomplishment.
"It's so crazy; it's just surreal," she said. "I'm not going to believe it until I get down there."
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