MINOOKA — It wasn't that long ago that the Minooka boys volleyball program was down at the IHSA state championships, placing fourth overall and earning itself a banner up in the Minooka Community High School gym. People may forget that after last season, where the Indians lost in the sectional semifinals to Neuqua Valley. It was a bitter ending to the season for the Indians, and they try not to have that moment again this year.
"It is a new year, and we graduated a lot of seniors, so for me it feels like a fresh start," Minooka head coach Janel Grzetich said. "It's a new team, with a new group of personalities and different types of talents."
There are very few seniors on this new-look Minooka squad, but one of those seniors is Rick Bishop, who was apart of that Indians team that took fourth place in 2010. He will be the center piece for Minooka this year, and Bishop likes to have the challenge of being the leader.
"I feel like I basically need teach them the basics, like playing at the higher level, because a lot of these kids haven't played on the varsity level," Bishop said. "I've played in many situations, so I try to be the leader. I'll tell guys to be calm, cool, and collective in the games and it helps them calm down."
Knowing that this is last year playing high school volleyball, Bishop has put in a little extra emphasis on coming out on top this year.
"I'm just hoping to go hard and everything I do," Bishop said. "I've started my own workout regiment everyday, doing jump ropes and sit ups. I'm just getting my body ready for college."
When asked about Bishop's role on the team this year, Grzetich declined to comment on him specifically, but instead talk about what this team is all about this season.
"We are a team, and we call ourselves a volleyball family," Grzetich said. "So I do really want to stress to them that it's not about individual players or stars. If you don't have one component of the game, then you won't be successful. They have to work together and be a cohesive team."
One advantage that this young team has it height, which can help the Indians win a lot of points at the net.
"It's not so much of their height, but it's that their tall and quick," Grzetich said. "That is the part that has been very impressive so far. They're moving pretty well for people of their height."
The youth will not be the only challenge to this team this year. They have a tough conference schedule as well and are playing in one of the toughest tournaments of the year, the Tiger Classic at Plainfield North, right at the beginning of the season.
"The Tiger classic is an extremely good tournament," Grzetich said. "It'll be a test of what we can do or the potential we do have for the rest of the season."
Despite the youth and the tough schedule early on for Minooka, there is a lot of optimism around the players and coaching staff, trying to repeat their magical run from two seasons ago.
"I think we have a lot of potential here," Bishop said. "They just need to get more practice in, and they'll be good players. I feel we can make it to the state qualifier again."
"We haven't sat down and written our team goals down yet, but I have personal goals for them," Grzetich said. "I want them to play together well, know each other's strengths and weaknesses, to communicate with each other and then to have postseason success."