MINOOKA — Not many teams at the high school level can brag they have a lot of college players on their roster.
Most schools may contain two or three players that are college-bound, which would make them serious threats in any year.
For Minooka’s softball team this year, however, they have above the normal amount of college athletes, as all seven seniors on the Indians’ roster will all be college-bound to continue their playing careers next year.
“I’ve been here in the program for seven or eight years now, and we have had some great players come up through the ranks,” Minooka head coach Mark Brown said. “But I believe that this is the most talented team we’ve had, top to bottom. We have seven college-bound players, which is pretty impressive. We just have to put it all together and win, and I think these girls are ready to do it.”
Arguably the biggest name of the group of seniors is Sarah Novak, who committed to play at the University of Wisconsin next spring. Novak has not only been a big bat for the Indians, but her pitching inside the circle has helped carry Minooka to consecutive conference titles.
“I think this year, with all our seniors committed to play somewhere next year, we know that we have the potential and talent to win a lot this year,” Novak said.
“We’re just going to have to focus more in practices and play to our potential.”
Another big name for Minooka is Jackie Lilek, who, like most of these seniors, has played two years of varsity softball for the Indians.
Lilek will head to the University of North Dakota next year, and she hopes to carry a lot of success from this year onto the campus of UND next year.
“We know that if one of us is having a bad day, the other ones can pick us up,” Lilek said. “There’s obviously a lot of talent, and that’s a good way to push ourselves.”
While Novak and Lilek decided to go out-of-state for their college careers, the other five decided to stay in the state, as Rachel May (University of Illinois-Chicago), Ali Bagley (Robert Morris), Kelly Holstine (Benedictine University), Mikayla Malone (Elmhurst College) and Kelsey Smith (Parkland College) will all stay in the confines of the Land of Lincoln. Whether it be because they just want to stay in the state or the school has the field of study they want, these five girls will all still play in Illinois next year.
“I am going into the medical field, which was a huge aspect. Plus I love the city, so it made it an easy choice for me,” May said on going to UIC. “So I put all my marbles into them, and luckily they came out and saw me play and loved me.”
“You spend your whole fall thinking about where you want to play, and luckily I decided early in November,” Holstine added.
“It was really relaxing, especially because the coach contacted me first, so it made it a lot easier.”
Now that these girls are set on where to go, the pressure facing them will be extraordinary. In a time where two or three big name players can carry your team, the seven lady Indians know that all eyes will be on them to succeed this year.
“I feel the pressure, but I know that we’re going to come out on top,” Malone said. “I feel like that it won’t play a factor against us at all.”
“I don’t feel as much pressure because a lot of us can and have played under pressure before,” Smith added. “We’ve all played travel ball before, so we’re all use to the colleges being there to watch us for recruiting, so it shouldn’t be that bad.”
When it’s all said and done, a state championship is the top goal for this group of seniors before the seven of them head their separate ways in the offseason.
“I think we have a really good shot to get down there,” Novak said. “Like in my mind, I picture us ending our senior seasons with a win, and I know that it’s definitely possible.”
“We’re more experienced now, so I think we all know what it takes to play at that next level,” May added. “If we weren’t going to make it down to state last year, we definitely are going to do it this year.”