Duo gives Indians stability in the middle
MINOOKA — The Minooka girls volleyball program lost three players to graduation — Hayley Bowden, Bri Marquez and Stacey Perinar — who are now playing college volleyball.
Those losses will be felt across the floor, as the three played three different positions for the Indians. Perinar, the 2011 Morris Daily Herald All-Area MVP, was an outside hitter. Marquez also made the All-Area team as a setter. An honorable mention All-Area pick, Bowden recorded 201 digs as the Indians' libero.
One position at which the Indians will have no turnover is middle hitter, which will be occupied by senior Tessa Griparis and sophomore Jessica Karalow. The Griparis-Karalow combination also filled the spot for the 2011 Indians, when the pair had much less experience.
Griparis was a varsity newcomer, but she was a seasoned veteran compared to Karalow, who had never played high school or club volleyball. Her only organized volleyball experience when she debuted for the varsity Indians was two seasons at Channahon Junior High.
"When I first came to Minooka High School, I wasn't even going to go out for volleyball," Karalow said. "(Minooka coach Chris Hoelscher) came to me and said, 'You should try out.' So I did. Practice was going well, and then when we were getting ready for our first tournament, (Hoelscher) said, 'OK, you can come play with (the varsity).'""
The move up to varsity was less extreme for Griparis, who played on the Minooka sophomore team in 2010 and is a member of the Sports Performance Volleyball Club, but was still one with which she initially struggled.
"Sophomore to varsity is a whole new level. Everything is done at a much faster pace," Griparis said. "It was difficult at first, but the other girls were very welcoming and helped me adjust."
Both players say they felt more comfortable in their roles as the season progressed. They credit their teammates for making that possible, as well as one another.
"Tess and I know each other very well," Karalow said. "We work well together."
Since the Indians began practice last week, Griparis and Karalow have found themselves in a similar position to what some of their teammates were in last fall. This time, they are the holdovers, and they are trying to be as welcoming as others were to them. Griparis in particular thinks her place on the team has changed.
"I definitely feel I need to step up this year," Griparis said. "Seniors have to be leaders. It's different from last year when I was a junior and following the seniors' lead. Now it's up to me to be one of those leaders."
To Griparis, middle blocker is not necessarily a position of strength for the Indians — at least not in comparison to the rest of the team.
"I mean, we all have our positions that we're responsible for," Griparis said. "But it's not about one person. Nobody is more important than anyone else. We all work together. If we do that, they will all be strong points."