By Isi Frank Ativie
For the Bugle
The month of November ended with a heartbreaking loss for the Niles West’s girls volleyball team as it was eliminated by New Trier in the sectionals semifinals in Winnetka.
Despite losing the first set 25-20, the Wolves came back and won the second match 25-17 before falling short in the final round 25-19.
Niles West junior outside hitter Natalia Pehar recorded ten kills and four aces.
“We just need to stay focus more and anticipate in every point at a time,” Pehar stated. “But it’s ok, we have next year so it’s all good.”
The Wolves had another spectacular season (27-7) with an astounding 8-0 home record and finished their third straight season with more than 20 wins.
They also captured their second-straight regional championship.
When head coach Stacy Roth arrived at Niles West in the fall of 2004, her main goal was to turn this program around and create a consistent winning atmosphere. Finally, she managed her first winning season with the Wolves in 2010 after six years of pure frustration; this program has been improving ever since then.
“Every year, we tried to get better.” Roth said. “This season overall was great.”
Niles West had a tremendous run in during the 2016 season as they won the regional and eventually the sectional title. The Wolves appeared in the Class 4A state tournament in Peoria where they advanced to the state semifinals before being eliminated by Mother McAuley.
That team is arguably the greatest unit this volleyball program had ever established; finishing the year with a 28-10 record which is the most wins in school history. After that magical season came to an end, former captains Kaila Johanson and Eleni Baldourdos graduated.
Roth will now lose seniors Nicole Zelazko, Natalie Scalero, and Franzyl Denila whom have been a huge help on carrying their program to a higher level of excellence.
“We’re losing three seniors,” Roth stated. “But we have some younger kids coming in for next year; including Natalia Pehar’s younger sister.” “Natalia will be back as a senior, so I think we’re expecting to do pretty well for next season.”
Natalia Pehar started her volleyball varsity career during the 2015 season as a freshman and was All-State honorable mention list at the end of her second season, however, despite achieving so much individual success, her main focus is helping the Wolves to win their first ever state championship.
“I feel like every year we’re getting closer,” Pehar said. “We started making process back in 2013, and we kept getting better leading to where we’re at now as a team.”
Niles West is hoping the 2018 season will be another special year for the Wolves as they continue to set their sights on the ultimate prize.