Three area teams failed to win regional girls volleyball championships this week. All three of them finished above .500. The three teams still playing meet that distinction, too.
Sometime in the past few weeks, every local team clinched a winning season. That’s right, the area went 6-for-6. Our teams already have 131 wins between them; Coal City, Newark and Seneca can add to that total Tuesday when they begin sectional play.
I caught two local teams in action in regionals this week (kudos to the IHSA for scheduling every match involving our locals, and every potential match involving our locals, on the same dates). On Tuesday, I saw Morris defeat Princeton, 25-14, 25-21, at Streator. Thursday evening, I caught Minooka’s, 25-20, 27-25, loss to Rock Island.
My expectations weren’t that huge for Morris, which ended a 19-15-1 season with a heartbreaking loss to LaSalle-Peru Thursday, coming into the year. The Redskins graduated a fantastic senior class. They haven’t played quite at the level they did in 2012 all season, but Tuesday they were outstanding. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Morris team make fewer mistakes.
“As a total package, we [had] probably one of the best matches we’ve played,” Morris coach Jackie Litwiller said.
Minooka’s effort wasn’t as clean Thursday at Ottawa. Some of the Indians’ mistakes were unforced – they did have five service errors – but I’d contend that most were forced by Rock Island. Of the 12 Minooka hitting errors, several came after the Indians had hit the ball once, twice or more in bounds and the Rocks had returned it successfully.
“They know we’re very outside-heavy,” Minooka’s Skyler Day said. “It wasn’t really that hard when we were passing a lot of balls out of system. We were out of system a lot during that game, so it was really challenging to get on top of the ball and get those big kills.”
I don’t know what to make of Minooka’s 21-12 showing this year. Don’t get me wrong – it was a good season against easily the toughest schedule any team in our area plays. But the Indians expected to be good this year. There were times – during Thursday’s loss, even – where the Indians looked almost unstoppable, and seemed ready to go to that next level. I think the Indians would tell you they hoped the product of their play would be a little more than it was.
The thing is, Minooka is the only local team I can even see an argument that it didn’t meet or exceed expectations. Gardner-South Wilmington had the area’s worst record at 14-12 and was the only local team not to make a regional final, but it was easily the most successful season in many years for the Lady Panthers. The good has to outweigh the bad in Gardner.
Like Minooka, Coal City had high hopes for this season. They’ve delivered. They’re 22-9-1 after winning their first regional championship since 2006 Thursday night in Manteno. They also repeated as Interstate Eight Conference divisional champs.
Three local teams – Morris, Newark and Seneca – were hit especially hard by graduation after last season. Seneca, which is 29-7-1, and Newark, which is 27-6, have the two best records in the area. Both teams won regional championships and have a chance to do more. I think it’s safe to say they’ve reloaded successfully.
Regardless of what happens Tuesday and beyond, the area has acquitted itself well in volleyball this season.
I’m not sure there’s another prep sport in which our local schools can currently match their collective excellence on the volleyball court.