JOLIET — Coming in as a huge underdog Wednesday night, Joliet Catholic Academy knew it was going to have to be more energetic and hustle if they were going to take down the Minooka Indians boy’s volleyball team. That’s exactly what the Hilltoppers did, but it still wasn’t enough, as the Indians survived a 25-21, 22-25, 25-18 scare from JCA to claim their fourth straight regional title.
Every game went back and forth, as neither team seemed to gain a huge advantage until late in their matches. This was the case for game one, as Minooka and JCA traded points back in forth until the Indians strung out six out of seven to go up 15-11. They carried that momentum throughout the rest of game one, squeaking by with a 25-21 victory.
Game two, however, was where things would get interesting. Despite losing game one, the Hillmen came out with a lot more energy than the Indians, and it showed. Leading 9-7, JCA went on 12-4 run to bust the game open to a 10-point lead, forcing Minooka head coach Janel Grzetich to call a timeout.
“I was starting to get very worried with my team,” Grzetich said. “We were just making our own mistakes in the first part of the second game. It was mistake after mistake after mistake, and they made a big run.”
Minooka did not go down without a fight, though, in game two. After the timeout, the Indians battled their way back into it, cutting it to a 24-22 game at one point. A bad serve, though, ended the rally, giving the Hillmen a 25-22 game two victory, sending the match to the third and final game.
Although they lost game two, the Indians felt they had momentum going into the third game.
“I think our energy level at the end of game two was much higher,” Grzetich said. “That momentum carried over to the third game, or at least the beginning of it, which is what we wanted to see.”
Minooka did use their momentum to start out game three, as they were attacking from the get go. Senior Maalik Walker stepped up big for the Indians, getting the necessary blocks and kills for Minooka to start out game three.
“Instead of trying to hit straight into the block, I was turning the ball to the right side and hitting it across,” Walker said of the key to his success in game three. “It helped me pretty well there near the end.”
Despite the Indians looking strong at the start, JCA would not die. Every time Minooka would look like it was about to pull away, the Hillmen stayed strong, stopping every big run the Indians would go on. That all ended in the middle of game three, though, as Minooka took a 10-8 lead and built up to a 20-12 lead, all but putting away the Hillmen.
“We came out in our minds thinking that we were going to beat them easily, but they put up a good fight,” Walker said. “We came back, and really showed that we deserved to win.”
Even in defeat, JCA head coach Rhyen Staley was proud of his team.
“I attribute a lot of credit to all my guys saying that we can do this and still be successful,” Staley said. “We really stepped up today, and I look forward to the future.”
Minooka will play Plainfield East in the sectional semifinals Friday night at Joliet West High School.