Marist’s Luke Brannigan has three brothers who made their marks in baseball.
Luke’s brothers also played other sports while he was growing up, including volleyball at Century Junior High in Orland Park, and he was drawn to that pursuit instead.
“Those were the games that I actually enjoyed going to,” Luke said of volleyball. “I could sit there and watch a fast-paced game and not beg my mom to take me home.
“My brothers are ruthless on me playing volleyball instead of baseball. But they appreciate what I’m doing in volleyball and they support me.”
Brannigan has been a force this season, but he did his job in a support role Thursday night during a 25-22, 22-25, 25-18 nonconference victory over Lincoln-Way West in New Lenox.
Although Brannigan missed most of the 2022 club season with a shoulder injury, the junior outside hitter had five kills and 10 digs Thursday for Marist (7-0), ranked No. 3 in the nation according to the latest USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
“It was a super high-energy match,” said Brannigan, who injured his right shoulder in June playing club for Ultimate. “I just laid out for a ball and landed on it wrong.”
After surgery a few months later, Brannigan felt his future on a team stacked with heavy hitters was in question. He has the chops to play back row, figuring that would be his home.
Marist coach Jordan Vidovic had other ideas, however. Brannigan stayed in the front row and responded by being named all-tournament at the Marist Invitational, putting down 10 kills in a 25-8, 24-26, 28-26 win over Lincoln-Way East in the championship match.
“He’s seven months behind and he’s not 100% extension,” Vidovic said of Brannigan. “As a hitter, he knows it’s getting better 1% at a time. He looks way different from when the season started.”
Smith is surprised at how strong Brannigan is playing.
“I knew he would come back, but I didn’t think he would be doing this,” Smith said. “He’s been through a lot, and I’m very happy for him.”
Smith had 11 of his kills in the final two games against the Warriors. Marist did not panic after dropping the second game.
“We had a million reps in practice,” Smith said. “It’s just a matter of doing what we do there and do it out here.”
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Lincoln-Way West coach Jodi Frigo, a former coach for the RedHawks, believes her team is an elite program despite the loss.
“We play these good teams to see where we stack up,” she said. “We need to see what we can fix. We wanted to try to put Marist out of system a little bit, because if they are in system, they are going to have a field day.”
Marist opened the season with a sweep of Sandburg. Brannigan did not record a kill in the first game and took over at libero in the second game.
But when the RedHawks opened play March 24 in their own invite, he pounded down a kill and it felt good.
“I told Marty that was my first kill in eight months,” Brannigan said. “It was a long, long, long journey. There were two months I couldn’t play, then surgery and six months after that to get back to where I was.
“It feels great to be back.”
Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.