By Mark Gregory
BLOOMINGTON – After reaching the IHSA Class state championship match a season ago, Minooka had one goal in mind this year and that was not only to return, but to take one step further this year and win the state title.
The Indians did make that return showing to the state title match, however, Minooka fell in three sets to Marist.
Minooka claimed the first set 25-22, but dropped the next two 25-22, 25-15.
“The first game we had it, the second game was a battle back and forth and the third game, we were up 8-4 we hit about nine balls out,” said Minooka coach Carrie Prosek. “Our serve receive was great, our defense was great and I think we beat ourselves. Granted they are a phenomenal team and their outside hitters beat us up, but they didn’t have any errors. They put the ball on the court and we didn’t.”
Minooka was led by 12 kills from Rocky Perinar, while Allison Papesh added 11 and Holly Bonde chipped in five. Taylor Baranski had a team-best 20 digs, while Zoey Seput posted 26 assists.
While the Indians were disappointed with the outcome, they understand the magnitude of what they have done over the past two seasons and how hard it is to finish second out of the 174 teams that opened the Class 4A playoffs.
The Indians are the first public school team in Class 4A to play in back-to-back state championship games since Lyons Township and Cary-Grove met in 2009 and 2010.
“I am not disappointed,” Prosek said. “What public school can say they have been here two years in a row. I am proud of them – we made history. Our goal was to win state, but who’s goal isn’t to win state.”
While the players were upset with the loss, they still understood the magnitude of their accomplishment.
“It is unbelievable,” said Libero Taylor Baranski. “We have never had this in our school and I don’t know if we will ever see it again. As disappointing as it is, I am more grateful for the success we did have and for the memories.”
“What we did is very special,” added Allison Papesh. “Not many people can say they played in a state championship and we can say we did it twice – and back to back.”
The Indians had 11 players who were on both of the state runners up. Baranski, Perinar, Bonde and Papesh join Isabella Dailey, Samantha Hermann, Makenna Jacoby, Stacey Tyrell, Rylee Ritchey, , Olivia Klank and Kathryn Barker.
“This is a great group of girls, but I think we have started a chemistry in our program to make kids want to love the game and believe in themselves,” Prosek said. “They have meant so much. Not only are they good volleyball players, they are really good people. They have really good character and are really humble. They don’t walk around like they are volleyball queens of the town.
“We are a big school, but we still have that small town mentality. Hopefully our lower levels see this.”
Prosek isn’t only looking to motivate the players in the school, but those not yet at Minooka.
“We hope that the kids that live in Minooka that have been going to private schools see that we are volleyball power now and they can stay home,” she said.