MINOOKA — It is very easy for one big-name player to carry a team to a state championship at the high school level, whether it be in football, basketball, volleyball, etc.
Many may have looked at the boys volleyball team at Minooka Community High School and said the same thing: one guy carried them to a fourth place finish at the state tournament. For the Indians, though, they feel that that wasn’t the case at all, as they now try to show people that not just one person carried them.
“Last year, people said that we really didn’t have a diverse team and that we were only led by one guy,” senior Maalik Walker said. “But we all knew that we had more than one player, and when someone went down, the others were right there to pick them back up.”
This one player that everyone looked at last year was Rick Bishop, who led the team in kills last season. Although he was a big piece to the Minooka run last year, he wasn’t even voted Southwest Prairie Conference MVP, as fellow teammate Phil Hannon took home those honors. This just added fuel to the fire of people saying the team was only centered around the now-graduated Bishop.
“I mean he led the team in kills, but I felt that we were more of a team than just him carrying us last year,” Hannon said.
Outsiders might look at this team right now and ask how are they going to replace the departed Bishop, but head coach Janel Grzetich doesn’t even have that thought cross her mind.
“I don’t think that we have that mindset at all, especially the guys don’t think of how to replace Bishop,” Grzetich said.
“If you tell them that they reached state because of one player, our guys will be very quick to tell you that this is a team sport, and you need a team to get you down to state.”
With all that being said, the Indians feel that they do have some guys that are ready to step up into that big role. One of those guys is Matt Svetlecich, who was second behind Bishop in kills last year as a junior. Many people are looking to him to step up and contribute in a big way again this season.
“It made us feel like we weren’t contributing enough to even get any recognition,” Svetlecich said about last year. “It made the rest of us feel like we weren’t a part of the team.”
Walker also seems to be a guy that can fill the spot left from Bishop, as a strong postseason showing from him has given a lot of confidence in himself to be a big factor offensively for the Indians.
“I think there’s pressure on both me and Svetlecich, but we’ve been working with Phil (Hannon) now for about four years now, so that helps a lot,” Walker said. “It helps because it’ll help us maintain consistency throughout the season.”
Coming into this season, the Indians may not seem to have that “big name” guy on paper. That’s not holding them back, though, as they want to prove themselves as a program that last year was no fluke.
“This year, we’re not just centered around one guy. We have tons of hitters that are pretty good hitters,” Svetlecich said. “One person doesn’t have to carry us all the way through the season, and we’re a very well-rounded team.”
“Don’t get me wrong, he (Bishop) was a huge contribution to our team, but he didn’t do everything.” Walker added. “People have already been talking about how we’re going to be bad because he’s not here anymore, which is 100 percent false.”