By Mark Gregory
Last season when the Joliet West volleyball team won a regional title, it was a nice win for a talented team.
When the Tigers repeated the feat this season, the team showed the beginning of sustainable program.
West, the No. 6 seed in the Romeoville Regional, beat No. 4 Lockport, 19-25, 25-20, 25-22, Oct. 27 to win the Class 4A Joliet West Regional championship.
“It has been a while since we won two in a row,” said Joliet West coach Al Mart. “That was a good match between two good teams and it could have gone either way at the end. We got some fortunate bounces, some blocks and put a ball down when we needed to. This is a tribute back to when we lost in the regional final to Lincoln-Way East in three games three years ago.”
Lockport dominated the opening set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead and never looking back.
Mart said the Tigers calmed down after the first set.
“We told them that we had been here before. We were playing with so much emotion and we had unforced errors. We talked about it that we had to play with composure in big matches like this because when you let the emotion get to you, your brain goes haywire. They settled down and we started doing the little things,” Mart said. “We don’t do it with a lot of height or a ton of athleticism. We do it with a lot of heart and hard work.”
While the Tigers played the match dinged up, Lockport entered the regional final after losing its top player JoDee Kovanda.
“The team did a lot of work these two weeks,” Lockport coach Nick Mraz said. “To be on the brink of a regional championship by putting a brand new lineup out there in a week and a half, that shows heart and that shows grit. That was what you had to expect with these two teams getting together. We knew it was going to be a battle. There was no one walking in and going home quickly. It is a shame one of us had to go home.”
Mart said while he is happy for the Tigers, he is most happy the West seniors were able to experience the back-to-back regional titles.
“I am proud of them. I am very, very happy for this senior group,” Mart said. “They are some of the best seniors I have ever had and I am not just talking talent. I am talking character, personality, fun to be around. They are great kids. I am happy for the program, I am happy for the team, but really happy for those seniors.”