MINOOKA – When asked what she enjoys apart from volleyball, Minooka Community High School senior Skyler Day admitted to one other interest. One, it seems, is all her schedule allows.
“I like to bake. I’m a baker,” Day said. “When I have down time, I sleep and do homework and schoolwork and that’s about it. The rest of my life is spent playing volleyball.”
The Minooka Indians reaped the benefits of Day’s year-round commitment to the sport, going 73-28 overall during her three varsity seasons. Day is the Morris Daily Herald Girls Volleyball Most Valuable Player after leading Minooka to a 21-11 season this fall.
Not all set
During Day’s first four years of competitive volleyball, she was a setter. It was a position she assumed from the beginning at Minooka Junior High School, where she made the ‘A’ team in sixth-grade and was part of a fourth-place state finish in seventh grade. Day kept setting through one club season at Uno and through her freshman year on the freshman team at MCHS.
Early in her second club season at Uno, Day’s volleyball world changed, and in an understated manner.
“Honestly it was one day, I went into tryouts and one of the coaches said, ‘Hey, you kinda got a knack for hitting,’ so they made me a hitter,” Day said. “It was just coincidentally that I went and hit a couple balls and they said I was good at it.”
According to Day, Minooka head coach Chris Hoelscher had already talked about her future as a setter before the start of her sophomore season at MCHS. Then Hoelscher learned of Day’s position switch. The career setter who had never played above the freshman team became a varsity outside hitter that fall – even if Day’s all-around game at her new position was still raw.
“She was the next-best outside after Stacey Perinar. Yes, she was that good,” Hoelscher said. “Her attacking was strong, but her passing and ball control needed a lot of work.”
Day backed up her coach’s ranking by finishing second among the Indians with 223 kills as a sophomore. Her secondary and tertiary statistics, which included just 17 digs, reflected a player who was unable to contribute much beyond pure hitting.
As a junior, and with Perinar lost to graduation, Day led the Indians and the area with 347 kills. But it was her growth in other areas that put her above the rest. Her dig total increased more than tenfold, to 185, and she had 427 serve receptions. The improvements, Day said, were a product of the prior club season, which was her first at Sports Performance after two at Uno.
“[Sports Performance] pretty much corrected anything and everything I was doing wrong because a lot of my mechanics were off,” Day said. “Up until that point, I just kinda went up swinging. I learned technique, just like the mechanics of the game, which helped [me] definitely become not just a powerful hitter but a smarter hitter.”
This season, Day led the Indians and finished second in the area with 248 kills. She ranked second on the team in digs (188) and serve receptions (319), third in aces (27) and sixth in blocks (23). Another season at Sports Performance, Hoelscher said, helped her all-around game continue to grow.
“When she went to Sports Performance this past year, she was surrounded by many excellent, skilled athletes and was challenged to be better,” Hoelscher said. “Their program is very technical, and she was provided very skill-specific training.
“Just having someone pay that much attention to detail was instrumental in her development. She knows that she needs to raise her passing and ball control skills to play six rotations at the next level. In fact, she often asked to opt out of attacking drills to work with the defensive specialists to improve her defense. Plus, I think she really enjoys it.”
Here and there
Day is currently beginning her final club season at Sports Performance. She and her club teammates have been conditioning three days a week and will begin full practices in December. Several months later, Day will be off to the University of Buffalo, where she committed to play in summer 2012.
In an ideal world, Day’s senior season at MCHS would have had a more recent ending. A 25-20, 27-25 loss to Rock Island in the championship match at the Class 4A Ottawa Regional on Oct. 31 meant the Indians fell short of a regional title for the first time since Day entered high school.
This season was not, however, one without positives. To Day, the biggest highlight, and maybe of her entire career, actually came in a loss. On Sept. 10, Day had a match-high 13 kills in a 25-19, 19-25, 25-19 loss to Plainfield North, which was nationally ranked at the time.
“Even though we lost that game, not only me but the rest of my team, we just played so well,” Day said. “It wasn’t a win on the scoreboard, but it was a win for our team because we worked together. We were fixing all the things we said we were gonna fix in the game.”
One reason Day said she is “definitely happy” with the season is that she was able to serve as a leader for the Indians, just as Perinar, Bri Marquez and Haley Bowden were leaders for her during her first varsity season.
“We were a really close-knit team, so that also made going on the court so much more fun and such a better experience. I think that made a difference,” Day said. “I had a great season with all the girls, not only volleyball-wise, just team-wise. We focused a lot on teamwork and coming together as a team, not playing as individuals, so I thought we did a good job of that this year.”