JOLIET — It was re-match of last year’s regional final Thursday night between the Minooka Indians and the Bradley-Bourbonnais Boilermakers, and it lived up to all the expectations coming in. Just like last year, though, the Indians were able to prevail, as they defeated the Boilers in a 25-13, 29-27 two-set thriller, giving Minooka its third straight regional title.
Both teams came out on fire early, exchanging points back and forth, before the Indians scored four points in a row to go up 9-5 early. After it went to 14-11, Minooka closed out strong, going on an 11-2 run to finish off the Boilers 25-13. Senior Bailey Sachtleben dominated in Game 1 for the Indians, recording five kills in the opening-game victory.
“I had an adrenaline rush for sure in Game 1,” Sachtleben said, who led the team overall with eight kills on the night. “We were told to not tip until we needed to, so I just decided to start pounding away at the ball and giving it my all.”
Game 2, however, is where all the theatrics would take place Thursday night. With its season on the line, Bradley came out firing in Game 2, quickly going up 4-1 on the Indians. Minooka, however, weathered the storm, and was able to slowly get back in the contest. After tying it at eight, the Indians went on a mini 3-1 run to go up 11-9, forcing Bradley into a timeout.
Out of the timeout, the back-and-forth action continued with both teams exchanging points and long rallies. With the Indians leading 20-17 and one of their best servers, senior Kasey Schumacher, on the serving line, it seemed Minooka would be poised to close out Bradley right there. Schumacher hit one into the net, however, giving life back to the Boilers.
With that new life, Bradley fought back, tying the game at 22, forcing the Indians to call a timeout.
“We felt prepared going late into that game because we had our scouting report, and when you know what’s coming and you’re not surprised, you feel prepared,” Minooka head coach Chris Hoelscher said. “Preparation meets opportunity, and that’s what successive.”
Coming out of the timeout, the Boilers were able to score, taking a 23-22 advantage while still maintaining the serve. The following serve went out of bounds, though, tying it back up at 23. With it all tied up, junior Gabriella Shepherd hit a serve that grazed the shoulder of a Boiler player and out of bounds. With the regional title on the line, Bradley went to their heavy hitter: junior Kelli Bates, who hit a big kill to tie the game at 24.
“Our girls stayed calm throughout,” Sachtleben said. “We did a really good job of staying poised and maintained our blocks well.”
Now Bradley went on the serve, and the Boilers were able to score, giving them game point. Just like they did all night, though, the Indians responded, scoring on a kill from Skyler Day, knotting things up at 25. On the following serve, the Indians scored, once again facing match point. Just like earlier, though, Bradley responded with Bates, as she sent a kill cross court to tie it at 26. With the Boilers serving, they took a one point advantage, giving them game point for the second time in the night.
hat would be the last time they scored, however, as Minooka responded to tie it at 27. With the game all squared up, Day walked up to the line, serving for a chance to win.
“There were a lot of nerves stepping up to the line, but I had to just focus on the goal of winning,” Day said.
Just like she has done all year for the Indians, Day stepped up, getting the two points needed to claim their third straight regional title. A big point came at 27-27, when Bates went up for a kill but was stuffed by senior Raven Burns and sophomore Jessica Karalow, falling back in the Bradley side for the point.
“It was nuts,” Burns said. “We knew we were at the end, and we wanted to win. I have no words on how crazy it was to get that block for us.”
The Indians advance to the sectional round next week in Normal. Unlike the last two years, though, Minooka is ready to finish what it started and finally grab that elusive sectional title.
“I think this time is different because we don’t have that big superstar to rely on for all the big points or to carry our team,” Hoelscher said. “It’s not just one kid with this team, it’s all of them stepping up and playing together.”