CHANNAHON – The Minooka boys volleyball team won six of its first nine matches, which most programs would deem an acceptable, if not oustanding, start to the season.
The start pales in comparison to the way the Indians began each of the past two seasons, though. Both of those seasons with them playing in the state final tournament.
Minooka already has lost as many matches in 2014 as it did all season in 2013, when it started 8-0 and immediately followed its first loss with a 20-match winning streak. In 2012, when the Indians placed fourth in the state, they started 5-0, lost two in a row and then did nothing but win until they were at state.
None of this is to say that the Indians are doomed, because they lost a few times early. After all, there is precedent the other way. The Indians lost a total of 12 matches in 2010, including five of their first 10, and they finished the year as the fourth-place team in the state.
Janel Grzetich, who has served as Minooka’s coach for all of its state runs, admitted after a 25-18, 25-21 win over Plainfield South on Tuesday, that the Indians still are struggling to replace Phil Hannon and Maalik Walker, their 2013 captains. Both were lost to graduation.
“I’m still looking for the guys to come together, for that one person to step on the court and start taking control of the game, and [be] a leader on the court,” Grzetich said.
It might be said that senior Mitch Perinar led the Indians through his play Tuesday. Perinar had 14 kills, and he provided either kills or blocks on five of Minooka’s final six points in a closely contested second set.
“Mitch is more of like a silent or – I shouldn’t say silent – quiet leader,” Grzetich said. “He leads through actions. The guys look up to him.”
Another candidate to provide leadership is one of the five sophomores on the varsity roster, though it’s one who got a full year of varsity experience in 2013.
“Brandon (Baranski), the setter, did a little better job of that the second game, trying to just communicate with his hitters, so that I’m hoping to see,” Grzetich said.
There are a few big tests coming up for Minooka. It will play in its own Minooka Invitational on April 26, the Lincoln-Way East Tournament the next weekend and the York Tournament the weekend after that. Maybe one of those events will be remembered as the time a leader emerged for the 2014 Indians.