MINOOKA — The Minooka Indians boys volleyball team had some high expectations coming into the season, and rightfully so.
In two of the past three seasons, the program has reached the state semi-finals, only to lose and take fourth place overall both times. The season they’ve had, though, has blown those expectations out of the water.
Through their first 24 games of the season, the Indians posted a 23-1 record, with their only loss coming to a team from the state of Ohio in the Wheaton-Warrenville North Tournament. If you take that one loss away, Minooka has not lost a game against teams from the state of Illinois all year.
“The expectations were high from last season just from the players we had returning and the experience we knew they were going to bring,” Indians coach Janel Grzetich said. “Even I, though, am a little surprised at the way they’ve been able to mesh together.”
The start has been an eye-opener around the state, as the Indians have proven themselves time and time again that they’re a force to be reckoned with. In this season alone, the Indians won numerous tournaments, including their own tournament when they recorded a big win over Neuqua Valley, a team they’ve had problems with in the past.
“We’ve just come out this year and played our game,” senior middle hitter Maalik Walker said. “When we play our game, I feel nobody can beat us.”
While the winning has been good, Minooka has encountered some setbacks along the way. As of right now, Justin Toth, a 6-foot-9 junior blocker, is out with an ankle injury, resulting in a missed piece up front for the Indians.
“From the updates we’ve been given, he is progressing well and doing good,” Grzetich said. “I know he wants to get back on the court as soon as possible, and we do to. So keep your fingers crossed.”
Another setback is also in the form of their conference schedule. The Southwest Prairie Conference is having a down season, which has made the games easier for the Indians. This has caused some people to believe that the Indians aren’t as good as their record indicates due to the talent level they’ve played.
“The start has been nice, but the conference isn’t challenging us as well as it should,” junior outside hitter Mason Novak said. “We try to stay pumped up before games, but then in the middle of the game when it’s going so slow, it’s hard.”
Playing weaker competition is also harder in a sense in that Minooka has a hard time keeping that edge, which is something the team is set on working on in the next few weeks before postseason play begins. “We still get drilled every practice from coach telling us to keep up our edge because we’re going to need it when we play a good team,” Walker said.
Despite the injury and lack of quality schedule, this Indians are set out to prove that they can compete with some of the best teams in the state. With playoffs starting May 20, their time to show people what they’re about is rapidly approaching.
“Taking third in the Wheaton Warrenville tournament showed what we’re really made of out here,” Novak said. “So I think we can definitely put it together and make a deep postseason run.”
“We do a lot of basic drills in practice, but we’re also going to have and start doing more competition drills in practice that are a faster pace to try and simulate really high pressure situations,” Grzetich added. “We just have to go-go-go as hard as we can until practice is over everyday. We’ll have to keep that pace that whole last week before playoffs start.”