HOFFMAN ESTATES — Minooka’s boys volleyball team is living a dream — no more so than after Friday night at the IHSA State Finals after the Indians three-game win over St. Rita.
“At the beginning of the season someone would have said we’d have gotten this far, I’d have said ‘wake me up from a dream’,” Minooka senior Rick Bishop said. “As it turns out, we’re actually pretty good.”
Minooka beat the Mustangs 25-23, 23-25, 25-18 to advance to the semifinals. That game is against Glenbrook North at 10 a.m.
The locals currently sit with a 37-2 record.
“If someone would have told me before the season that we’d be in the state semifinals, I’d have laughed,” senior Nick Vertin said.
The laughing, dreamy season continued on Friday after the Indians win. However, both the first two games of the match were extremely tight. In fact, the Indians were down 20-16 in each of the first two games and could very well have been the team packing up and heading home after Friday’s action.
This match is what it has been all season for us. Not taking anything away from Minooka, they put up a good block,” St. Rita coach Ryan Biros said. “The kids worked hard, they just couldn’t come out on top.”
Biros said not winning the first game was certainly a key to the outcome.
“I think looking back on it, I think we’ll say that we should have been able to finish it,” he said. “But this atmosphere is different than just playing in our home gym.”
Minooka trailed 20-16 in the first game, but got on a roll behind the service of Ryan Bauer with the score at 21-19.
Vertin (14 kills) had a palm kill, two hitter errors on St. Rita were next, followed by two big kills from Bishop (10 kills). St. Rita stopped the run at 24-22, and even got one more point before Minooka got the ball back on a kill by Bishop, then finished it.
St. Rita then came out and put together virtually the same run in the second game, only that time the Mustangs held the Indians off and got the win.
“I think we feed off our fans,” Vertin said. “Even at the end of the second game we had the momentum. They came back and got the last point, but we had the momentum. That carried into the last game.”
Minooka coach Janel Grzetich said that the Indians passing was the biggest key.
“Our passing wasn’t that great today, though it was much better in the third game,” she said.
Minooka didn’t face much of a threat in the third game, leading 15-9 at one point before putting the match away.
Grzetich said that everyone on the team was tight on Friday and that she hopes things will feel different on Saturday.
“I was just standing there and I was a bundle of nerves,” she said. “Hopefully tomorrow it will make a big difference coming back to the same gym in front of the same fans and everyone will know what to expect coming in.”