Minooka taking step closer to state trip
Updated: May 24, 2011 9:56PM
Minooka finished fourth in the boys volleyball state tournament in 2010, when the Indians made a name for their program across the state. A year later, they don’t want to even think about their 2010 accomplishments.
“That was a whole different set of young men,” Minooka coach Janel Grzetich said after watching her team knock off host Joliet West in straight sets in a regional semifinal. “This team has its own set of goals. There are only two boys who played a lot on that team that are back so the experiences of this season are new to almost everyone on the team.”
One of the first achievements on that list of goals for Minooka was a regional championship. The Indians took their first step toward that Tuesday night with the hard-fought, 25-19, 25-23 win over the Tigers. The win moves Minooka into tonight’s regional final against Joliet Catholic for the second consecutive year. The No. 3-seeded Hilltoppers earned their berth with a 25-21, 25-21 victory over second-seeded Plainfield Central.
Minooka (26-6-1) trailed only once in each game but never really dominated the fifth-seeded Tigers (10-24). The first game was a back-and-forth battle with Minooka never leading by more than one point until a five-point run snapped a 14-all tie and gave the Indians a five-point cushion. West did not fold and came back to close the gap to just 21-19 before the Indians put them away with four straight points to end the game.
The momentum stayed with Minooka at the outset of Game 2 as the Indians jumped out to leads of 5-1 and 7-2.
“After the way Game 1 ended and the quick start they had in Game 2, a lot of teams would have folded and given up against a good team like Minooka,” Joliet West coach Jason Herrmann said. “But I stressed to my kids during a timeout that it was going to take a complete and unified effort from all six guys on the court and all 10 on the bench to get back into the game. And that is just what they did.
“I couldn’t ask for any more from my kids,” Herrmann added, “and they battled all the way to the end.”
West climbed back into the game at finally tied the score at 18. The Tigers used a late three-point run to take their first lead at 23-22. The score was tied at 23 and West thought that it had secured the 24th point before a net violation was called that reversed the point and gave Minooka the one-point edge and put the Indians at match point. The game and match were over on the next play.
“I can’t say enough about our effort,” Herrmann said. “Minooka has a lot of club players and we only have a couple. I said before the regional that I thought out of all the teams, we had the best chance of knocking off Minooka. That is not a swipe at JCA or the Plainfield schools but I really felt we had the best attack to play with them.”
Joliet Catholic (14-25) set up the regional final rematch by putting together scoring runs at the end of each game to eliminate Plainfield Central (15-16-1).
The Hilltoppers never led by more than four points in Game 1 and rallied from a 20-19 deficit to win the contest with a 6-1 streak down the stretch.
It was nearly a carbon copy in Game 2, as Joliet Catholic broke away from an 18-all deadlock to win the game and match with a 7-3 spurt.
“We played a very consistent match for the second night in a row,” Hilltoppers coach Rhyen Staley said. “We got our usual great game from our senior leader Kyle Kirwan (11 kills) but junior Danny Mosca gave us a great effort with good passes and a lot of solid and smart swings.”
Staley and his club look forward to meeting Minooka for the first time since last year’s regional title match, which the Indians won in three close games.
“This is why you play the regular season,” Staley said. “We have a young team and we had lot to learn with only two starters back from last year. We continue to learn with each match we play and now we get a chance to play for a regional title against a great team like Minooka.”