MINOOKA — With boys volleyball such an emerging sport around the Joliet area, success is at a premium. Even still in it's youth, the Minooka boys volleyball program has been the one of the most successful of them all, taking fourth place at the state tournament twice in the past three years. In the one year between the state appearances, the team made it to the sectional finals, coming within one game of making it down to state again. Despite not bringing home a title yet, the success has been a big part in the growth of the sport at Minooka.
"The state experience is always exciting for everyone. I know for me it wasn't different from the first time. The excitement level was the same as the first time," head coach Janel Grzetich said. "We're slowly but surely making a name for ourselves, and our goal is to get there again this year."
A lot of players who went on that run are back this year, as defending Southwest Prairie Conference MVP Phil Hannon is back for his senior season with the Indians. He hopes to use that state experience from last year and make him even better this season.
"It was a lot of fun last year. It felt really good to be a part of that team," Hannon said. "Winning the conference MVP to me wasn't such a personal thing, but a sign of our team. This year, I think our team can grow from that."
Two of the bigger hitters returning for Minooka are seniors Maalik Walker and Matt Svetlecich. Both big players had strong postseason runs last year, and look to build off their individual successes from a year ago.
"There's pressure, but both Svetlecich and I have played with Phil (Hannon) now for four years, so that helps a lot with our consistency out there on the court," Walker said.
"We have a lot of the same kids from last year, but a lot of the new kids are going to have high expectations and know that they'll have to work hard," Svetlecich added. "I think if we do everything we need to do, we can get back down to state."
Minooka looks to do what the 2010 team couldn't do, and that's make a repeat trip down to state. As mentioned before, the 2011 team only made it to the sectional, which was a disappointment after getting fourth in state the year above. This team tries to avoid that let down and make it to the state finals in back-to-back seasons.
"A lot of these boys were on this team last year, so if they just rest on their laurels that's not going to be fine with us," Grzetich said. "They have to say to themselves 'last year was great, but what are we going to do this year?' That's going to be the true test of their ability."
Even with a lot of success from the past three seasons, there are some doubters out there who seem to think that last year's team was only carried by one person in Rick Bishop. This Minooka team knows that couldn't be farther from the truth, and are ready to show those doubters wrong.
"Last year, they said that we weren't that diverse as a team and only had one guy carry us, which is 100 percent false," Walker said. "It bugged us all the time when people said he was the only one that carried us. Don't get me wrong, he was a huge contribution to our team, but he didn't do everything."
With all that experience and a team that looks poised, the sky may be the limit.
"Our goal is to get back down to State, and I definitely think this group can get to the final four again," Hannon said.
"We have a lot of returning starters, and the guys that are filling in spots have been looking really good in practice," Svetlecich added. "Hopefully we can make it down to state again."