MINOOKA – It was the opening boys volleyball match in the Southwest Prairie Conference, as Minooka hosted Plainfield South on Thursday.
After winning the prestigious Tiger Classic, which was hosted by Wheaton Warrenville South this past weekend, the question was whether Minooka would have a letdown.
That was quickly answered, as the Indians disposed of the Cougars, 25-13, 25-14.
“We celebrated after the Tiger Classic, especially since it was the best finish a Minooka team has ever had,” Indians coach Mike Kargle said. “We placed third in that tournament in 2013, and it is one of, if not the best tournament in the state. But on Monday we got back to work, and tonight was our first match since then and we played well.
“You can never look at any teams’ results and assume anything because you don’t know about injuries, sickness or anything else. You have to be ready to play every time you step on the floor. The challenge is to take everyone seriously, and our team is stepping up to that challenge.”
The Indians (11-2, 1-0) jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first set and never looked back, as five of the points for the Cougars (3-4, 0-1) were service errors by the Indians. The second set was much of the same, as the Indians led 16-2 and got 10 kills from AJ Lewis. The senior, who will be attending Lindenwood next year, ended the night with 13 kills.
“The Wheaton tournament was a rush, and we were in the toughest pool and had to grind out everything,” Lewis said. “Tonight was big because in matches like this it’s of a much slower pace, and we have to learn from these type of matches.”
The 6-foot-4-Lewis is one of many great leapers on this talented team, but he didn’t start playing volleyball until his freshman year and fell in love with the sport.
“I played all sports growing up, and I really liked baseball,” Lewis said. “Baseball was my passion, but then I found volleyball, and I love the sport. I’ve worked hard at developing my jumping ability and the service part of the game. We have great athletes on this team, and we can all jump, so the defenses cannot just concentrate on one or two people, because we can score from anywhere on the floor.”
Since the Tiger Classic last weekend, Minooka has been noticed throughout the state, and depending on which rankings you look at, they are at or near the top in them all.
“The rankings are arbitrary, and they are for people to talk and write about,” Kargle said. “We are only about a third of the way through the season. The only thing we control is what we do in-house. We work a lot on the fundamentals and really don’t get too fancy, because fancy doesn’t work if you can’t do the basics.
“We have a lot of talent on the team, and they are all very athletic. We only have one sophomore on the varsity in Jordan Boe, and this is his first year of volleyball, and he is playing really well.”
“This has been very exciting for me to be on the varsity in my first year,” Boe said. “Everyone on this team gets along and works hard. It’s crazy to think how well we have done, and I’m part of all this.
“I play basketball, but I’ve really fallen in love with volleyball. The competition we play is outstanding, and this will only get us prepared for the end of the season.”
“I don’t know if I ever experienced anything like winning the Tiger Classic, from pool play to bracket play, it was great competition last weekend,” Kargle said. “But now we have that bull’s-eye right on us, and when you compete you just hope to play your best, and we did that. These kids have bought in, and they really are working to get better each day and each week.”