JOLIET – There are times when a special occasion can steal the show at a high school sporting competition.
That certainly was the case Thursday, when Joliet West hosted rival Joliet Central in their annual Fight-On match, which raised money for charity with Pink Heals of Joliet benefiting, and the night featured several cancer survivors who were recognized for their battles.
A large crowd showed up for the Southwest Prairie Conference volleyball match between the host Tigers and the Steelmen, and many in attendance wore pink to honor the fight against cancer. Both teams wore pink uniforms, and the court was outlined in pink tape.
West coach Al Mart is proud of the fact that the match has been around since 2008 and that the two District 204 schools take part in the special event, which his Tigers won, 25-9, 25-17, against Central.
“It’s a great event, and that’s what it is. It’s more than a game,” Mart said. “Don’t get me wrong, the game is important, and everyone wants to win, but when you see the community support, the staff and the student body that were here from both schools, that’s great to see.
“It’s a disease that affects everybody, and we’ve lost close people to our program, so it’s special to me. It’s great to see survivors coming out and people applauding and understanding what a fighter really is, for people dealing with cancer.”
A week after rallying to pull off an upset win over state-ranked Minooka on their home court, the Tigers could easily have been distracted by the event, but they did a good job of taking care of business to improve to 15-4 overall and 4-1 in SPC play.
“It was scary going into the Minooka match after a tough, draining match against a good team and then facing a top team in the state,” Mart said. “I give a lot of credit to my seniors since they gathered themselves together and made a commitment as a group that they were going to compete, and they did, and we played well and got a nice win.”
In West’s only match of the week, leaders included senior outside hitter Natalie Stefanski, middle hitter Ashley Shawmeker, setter Samantha Fair, libero Brooke Borgra and sophomore outside/rightside hitter Alexis Mines.
“This is a great event, and it gets everyone together and goes to a great cause with all of the money that goes to people who are fighting and survived it,” Fair said. “It’s a very emotional day, but it’s great that we can support them. Most of us are seniors, and we want our senior year to be memorable, so we really wanted that win over Minooka.”
The Tigers used long service runs from Fair and Stefanski to keep Central from mounting much of a challenge in the first set. But the Steelmen were better in the second set, with Grace Hallihan contributing several kills and blocks for the Steelmen.
“It’s not only a special night since we’re playing Joliet Central, but we’re raising money for cancer, and we get to honor people who are fighting or fought cancer,” Borgra said. “It’s something that we look forward to every year. This is going to be a really good year for us. A lot of us are seniors, and we want our senior year to be our best year here.”