NORMAL – They had a season to remember.
Last year, the Minooka girls volleyball team made program history and became the first Southwest Prairie Conference team to finish in the top two at state.
This season, the Indians topped that by becoming the first Joliet-area team to play in the Class 4A State Finals in two consecutive years.
“This program is special,” Holly Bonde said. “The school and community have been amazing. I’m so thankful for all of the support we’ve had. This is an amazing team and an amazing coaching staff. This is a really special team, and I’ve never been a part of something like this before.”
Even though the season ended in heartbreak – a three-set loss to Marist in the championship match saturday – players in the program know what they accomplished was a huge feat.
“We can always come back and remember this as Minooka Indians,” Taylor Baranski said. “We did this for our school and for each other. It’s something that we will never forget even though it did not go the way we wanted it to go.”
“We’re really proud of how we did last year, and this year just didn’t go as we had hoped,” Rocky Perinar said. “I know the teams following us will do just as well. We believe in them. I think the legacy we built will just keep growing throughout the years.”
Legacy is a big word, and it takes the right players to create one.
Sophomore Zoey Seput set a group of six seniors who all were committed to play college ball.
Both Alli Papesh (kills) and Baranski (digs) have set school records in kills and digs by hitting the 1,000 club. The two players have had outstanding careers, but they aren’t the only two.
Perinar is the best L2, also known as the second outside hitter, in the state, and teams would love to have right side Bonde playing as their top outside hitter.
The pins and the libero were expected to dominate this year since they were the higher-echelon players last year. What shocked the area were the middles.
Sammi Hermann and Olivia Klank dominated the blocking game. Even at the championship match, the middles out-blocked their foes.
While the two middles exceeded expectations, the finish hurt just as much.
“We worked really, really hard to get to this spot,” Hermann said. “We did this for our sisters, and we have to be happy we made it here. A lot of teams wish they would get this experience, so we have to be happy about it.”
One of the reasons the championship loss might have hit hard is beyond high school volleyball.
The Minooka team has played together since they were 13- and 14-year olds. They grew up playing together, and this was the last match they played together.
Even though the majority of the team will compete at UNO in club, Papesh will attend the University of Dayton after her semester ends.
“I’ve had the honor of being on this team for four years,” Papesh said. “I’ve played with great players every single year, but these past two years have been absolutely extraordinary. I couldn’t imagine going out any other way than these last two years with these people. I’m so proud of everybody.
“It’s unfortunate that this is my last game with them, but we went out the second best way we could.”
It’s the second-best way that Minooka could have performed, but it is still the best in history.
This team has entered the school and conference record books as the first to make it to the state finals, then go back-to-back years. It is the best that the Joliet area has represented at the most competitive level in state two years in a row.
“In the past four years we have done things at Minooka that have never been done,” Klank said. “We have had each other’s backs, and you have to always remember to play for the person next to you.
“Whenever we’ve said we were a family, we never lied. We’re a family and have been there for each other throughout everything. It’s truly an honor to play for such a good name on our backs and a great place in our heart.”
“You have to cherish every moment you play with the girls you’ve played with your entire lives,” Perinar said.