JOLIET – It’s hard to follow up on a memorable season.
The Joliet Catholic girls volleyball team started the 2014 season with a 9-12 record, then had the biggest comeback in IHSA Class 3A volleyball history. The Angels, who finished with a 25-17 mark, became the first team with more than eight losses to make it to the state championship match.
After the second-place finish, three players were honored as Joliet Herald-News all-area selections – a first team, second team and honorable mention – and senior setter Mary Murphy was selected as the Herald-News Player of the Year.
That’s tough to follow, but the 2015 Angel squad is fully prepared to do so.
“I think that we have a lot to look forward to this season,” JCA coach Christine Scheibe said. “We’re building off of the momentum last year going down to state. I think that these girls have had a taste of what that experience is like, and they want to get a taste of it again. Although we may not be the tallest team out there, we’re a competitive team, and we’re going to be setting our goals high and working towards them all season long.”
Goals are the same each season for Joliet Catholic: Make it down to state.
“All of the seniors coming back know that it’s possible to get to state,” senior Jessica Simon said. “We all know that we can do it. The juniors and new players on the team this year really want it, too. The confidence and energy is all there to get back and win this year.”
On paper, the obstacle seems like a difficult one because the Angels graduated nine seniors, five of whom were starters.
The senior class, however, believes it can do so because, overall, it is a more well-rounded team with even better ball control.
“We are more well-rounded,” senior Megan Cladis said. “We are really focusing on defense and passing because we’re not tall. We’re not big. We weren’t big last year, and we got second in the state, so I think that if we just focus on defense, offense will take care of itself.”
All three all-area players will be replaced by well-rounded players.
Cladis will transition from having played libero in the IHSA tournament to replacing Madeline Grimm on the outside, Simon will take over for Murphy as a setter, and senior Andriana Acosta will make her return to volleyball and fill in Maddie Naal’s middle hitter position.
Acosta played her freshman and sophomore year, but didn’t play last season because she wanted to focus on basketball. But after watching from the sidelines as the Angels took second in state, she was ready to play again and become a three-sport varsity athlete.
“It’s really cool because each sport is different, but I feel like each that I play helps carry on to the next sport,” Acosta said. “With volleyball and basketball, it’s the jumping. In soccer, it’s the footwork. All of that helps contribute to all of the sports that I play. Hopefully, I can take that and put into this season of volleyball.
“It’s my senior year – I wanted to come back and do everything this year. I’m excited to be playing with the girls again.”
The three will be filling in for the all-area players, but they are far from being the only talented players on the JCA roster.
The Angels are returning seniors Addy Alt, Megan Melone, Meghan Harrison and junior Taylor Zurliene. The four had a lot of playing time last season; and accompanied by Cladis, Simon and Acosta, they will bring experience and athleticism to the table.
The libero position still is yet to be filled because the team is so talented in the defensive specialist area. Passing and defense will not be an area where Joliet Catholic lacks this season.
Heart and team chemistry are areas it won’t lack in.
The group of seniors has played together since freshman year and has had successful seasons at every level at JCA. Some of the players even have known each other since grade school.
All of the players have a positive outlook for this season because of their past success. Similar to last year, Joliet Catholic will be playing a difficult schedule of Class 4A teams. By the end of the season, however, it hopes to have a high competition level and be ready to battle it out in the state tournament.
“Our motto for this season is ‘One for all and all for one,’” Simon said. “I really think that that is a good foundation for the season, because we’re all here for each other and being a team is what’s going to bring us back to state and put another banner up on the wall.”