O’FALLON — The Minooka boy’s volleyball team is slowly building itself up as a power in the State of Illinois.
On Tuesday night in the O’Fallon Sectional final against the O’Fallon Panthers downstate, the Indians took another step in proving that they’re a power, as they took down the Panthers in a three-game thriller, 25-20, 18-25, 25-14. It’s the third sectional title in the last four years for Minooka.
Minooka had to travel over four hours down to O’Fallon to play the host Panthers, giving O’Fallon a huge home-court advantage. That didn’t stop the Indians, however, as they played the Panthers even throughout the start of game one.
Then, with O’Fallon leading 16-15 midway through game one, the Indians strung together four straight points to pull ahead by three. A couple of more mini runs in the end resulted in the 25-20 game one victory for Minooka.
A big player down the stretch of game one was junior Mitch Perinar, who had two kills to score the 22nd and 24th points for the Indians, respectively. He came up big at the end after a slow start to the game.
“A lot of the team momentum led to a lot of kills,” Perinar said. “I just had to do my part and help the team out.”
“When Mitch was playing the outside, we were going to him a lot more because their (O’Fallon’s) outside defense wasn’t as strong,” Minooka coach Janel Grzetich added. “Mitch was able to put the ball away for us, which was huge.”
Just like in game two of the regional final against JCA, though, the Indians came out struggling in game two against the Panthers. After Minooka had been up 12-11, O’Fallon responded with a four-point run of their own, going up 15-12. They carried that momentum the rest of the game, ultimately leading to their 25-18 game two victory.
“We started to focus more on our own errors and started playing afraid,” Grzetich said of the game-two loss. “We were playing not to make errors, instead of playing aggressive to try and take control of the game.”
With their backs up against the wall after a game-two loss, the Indians came out dominant in game three, scoring the first five points of the contest, forcing O’Fallon head coach Katelyn Hagarty to call timeout.
“We were determined to not let up and control the game,” Grzetich said of their game three start.
“Mentally, it was very important that we took control of the game.”
One of the players pacing the way for the Indians was senior Matt Svetlecich, who led the team with nine kills overall in the game, with four coming in the final game. His performance helped Minooka dominate game three against the Panthers.
“We caught fire in game three, and they couldn’t do anything about it,” Svetlecich said. “After the way we played in game two, it was surprising for me to see us score point after point after point and just keep pushing ourselves as a team.”
“Svetlecich had one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play,” Grzetich added. “He was just finding all the gaps and holes on the court. He showed a lot of heart and emotion, which is a lot of fun to see.”
With the victory, the Indians advance to the state quarterfinals Friday at 1 p.m. at Hoffman Estates High School. They will have a familiar foe, however, as they will take on Lincoln-Way North, the only team from the state of Illinois to defeat them this season.
“We’re going to have to key on their outside players,” Perinar said. “If we can shut down their outsiders, we have a chance of winning the game.”
“North is a really good team,” Svetlecich added. “They bring a lot to the court, so hopefully we can keep our energy as high as possible and come away with a victory.”