Joliet Catholic (pictured left) is seeking its third consecutive state championship this weekend at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Maybe they will remember "Minooka" now.
An article in a downstate newspaper following the sectional semifinals on November 2 referred to Edwardsville's next foe as "Mintook." Hey, I may not be a card-carrying member of the National Geographic Society, but even I know my Marion Crab Orchards from my Marian Central Catholics.
Although it does not play in a "power" conference and can rarely be found at one of the top tournaments during the regular season, "Minooka" beat Normal Community 25-23, 25-21 in a regional championship match and upset Quincy 25-23, 25-21 in the aforementioned sectional semifinal before losing to Edwardsville 25-20, 25-23 in the sectional finals.
The postseason run, which included their first regional title since 1999, capped a 26-7-1 season for the Indians, who won the Suburban Prairie Conference with a 13-1 record and the Minooka Invitational, beating Normal U-High in the semifinals and St. Charles North in the championship.
Minooka was led by senior outside hitter Dariyan Hopper, a North Carolina State recruit, who had 10 kills in the win over Quincy and a season-high 21 in the Minooka tournament title match against St. Charles North.
"Everyone knew she was going to get the ball, but she is nearly unstoppable," said coach Chris Hoelscher. "Her passing and defense were also key for our team."
Other standouts included senior outside hitter Stacy Perinar, senior middle hitter Caleigh Hill, middle hitter Terese Tyrell, setter Briana Marquez, and defensive specialists Haley Bowden and Taylor Troutman.
Schaumburg coach Jeannette Pancratz could not stop beaming about 6-foot-1 senior Emily Young, a four-year varsity player and three-year starter who will take her considerable talents to USC next fall.
But it wasn't all about Young's ability as a player that left such a huge impression on Pancratz.
"Emily is a player that few of us are privy to encounter in our coaching careers," Pancratz said. "She has been blessed with God-given gifts and abilities and has taken responsibility to develop and utilize them positively to be the best that she can be.
"Emily plays at a very high level in all aspects of the game. While most people witness her high level in setting, hitting, blocking, serving, and digging, few see her ability to pass and her relentless pursuit to the ball.
"Few see her attentiveness to detail, her respect of the game, her sacrifices, her unselfishness, her loyalty, her integrity, and her courage. Few see her interaction with the younger players as she works to leave a legend and instill passion for the game in them.
"Emily is a true winner, a true champion, not because of her statistics, but because of her commitment to excellence and her impact on others. Her leadership and enthusiasm raises the level of play of those around her and creates an atmosphere of persistence and determination."
Young had 404 assists, 49 aces, 210 kills, 56 blocks and 222 digs to lead Schaumburg to the Mid-Suburban League championship game. She had 560 kills, 113 aces, 911 assists, 151 blocks and 569 digs in her career.
Young also ranked in the top 3 percent of her class and is the president of the National Honor Society at Schaumburg.
Pressure? On Chicago Christian? To win state?
The only team back from the 2009 Class 2A field of four, Chicago Christian is making its third trip to the semifinals in four years. After failing to win a game in 2007 and finishing second in 2009, the Knights are facing expectations from within and without.
But coach James Garcia is trying to minimize the damage.
"We are keeping the girls loose, having fun, and trying to keep the pressure off of them as much as possible," he said. "We know they are thinking about it though. Some of them have made mention about getting back to state, some have said about winning it all this time."
"Well, we hope we can," he added. "That would be such a great accomplishment for these girls. They have put the time in over the summer and in practices to compete in every game they play. I like where we are at, and now it's just a matter of going out and executing."
Garcia admitted he did not know a lot about the other three teams in the field - Decatur St. Teresa, Bloomington Central Catholic and Breese Central - but no matter who they face, they still have to take care of business on their side of the net.
"A lot of these teams we are unsure of, only because it's so hard to find any information on them," he said.
"We have to go out there with the mentality that it doesn't matter what color uniform is on the other side of the court, there are six bodies representing another school that we have to compete against and beat to achieve our goal of winning a state championship."
Some folks might think that reaching the state semifinals for the first time in school history is a mixed blessing for (Woodstock) Marian Central, since the Hurricanes draw two-time defending state champion Joliet Catholic in its opener.
"This is such an exciting time for Marian volleyball," coach Laura Watling said. "It means so much to finally make it to the semifinals. This team has pushed and fought for every point and they deserve to be downstate.
" We are looking forward to playing on such a big stage this weekend and hopefully making a run for the championship," she added.
Caitlin Piechota and Mary Nilles were two big reasons for Batavia's record-setting season, which included the most wins in school history (32) and the best finishes in all four tournaments in which the Bulldogs competed.
Piechota, who was expected to sign with Western Carolina on November 10, was named to the all-tournament team at Plainfield North and was first-team all-conference in the Upstate Eight River. She led Batavia in kills with 298 and aces with 50.
"Caitlin is a very solid all-around player," said coach Lori Trippi-Payne. "Her presence in the back row was just as strong as her front row presence. She really stepped into her own this year."
Nilles, a junior setter/rightside hitter who has orally committed to Marquette, wrapped up her third season on varsity with 157 kills, 48 blocks, 19 aces, 120 digs and 397 assists. She set a school record for setting accuracy at 97.4 percent.
"This was really a breakout year for Mary," Trippi-Payne said. "She matured as a setter and as a hitter, becoming one of our top offensive weapons. She also played better defense and put up a big block."
Finally, here are the 2010 Century Club National High School Rankings as of November 4 courtesy of Prepvolleyball.com's John Tawa.
1. Cary-Grove (Cary, Illinois)
Current record: 38-0; Last week's ranking: 1
The Trojans won three times last week to open the playoffs, but Tuesday's win over DeKalb, an upset winner over Huntley, was the most satisfying. The day before the match, a DeKalb player was quoted in a local paper as saying that her team could beat the nation's No. 1 team because it lacked height and had not played a competitive schedule.
Senior setter Colleen Smith served DeKalb off the court in Game 1 with four aces in a 12-point service run. Kelly Lamberti did the honors in Game 2, serving eight in a row to help the Trojans open a 10-2 lead. Cary-Grove takes on Hononegah today in a 4A sectional final. Cary-Grove won 25-16, 25-8 when the teams met Oct. 9.
16. Marist (Chicago, Illinois) Current record: 36-2; Last week's ranking: 15
Marist reached the Sectional final after winning a Tuesday semifinal versus Providence Catholic. But the Redhawks struggled to put away Providence, as was the case in the regular season when the teams went three sets. This time Marist won in two, 25-23, 25-18, behind 11 kills from Mallory Salis and 19 digs from Carks Niedospial. A crowd of several thousand is expected tonight for the sectional final, a rivalry match with Mother McAuley.
17. Lyons Township (La Grange, Illinois) Current record: 37-1; Last week's ranking: 16
Lyons pounded Oak Park-River Forest on Tuesday behind 26 total assists from Erin Juley and Alexis Viliunas to reach today's sectional final versus a 29-9 St. Ignatius team that has come close to beating the likes of Mother McAuley and Hinsdale South. If the Lions get by Ignatius, they will play either McAuley or Marist with a berth in the 4A Final Four on the line.
The Next 75 (with random notes inserted)
28. Mater Dei (Breese, Illinois) Current record: 37-1; Last week's ranking: 31
Random note: Mater Dei knocked Althoff Catholic out of the playoffs for the third straight year on Tuesday, sweeping the Crusaders in a match that last only 42 minutes. Ali Mueller's four kills in Game 1 set the tone for the Knights, who will play Carbondale today in a sectional final.
38. Benet (Lisle, Illinois)Current record: 32-6; Last week's ranking: 40
Random note: Benet found itself down one set in its Tuesday Sectional semifinal versus Waubonsie Valley, then rallied to take Game 2 behind the hitting of Jenna Jendryk and dominated the third behind six kills and three aces from Lara Ontko. The Redwings play Hinsdale South, which knocked off Hinsdale Central in a mild upset, today for the Sectional title.
53. Mother McAuley (Chicago, Illinois) Current record: 32-7; Last week's ranking: 63
Random note: MaryKate Styler had a huge match on Tuesday as the Mighty Macs eliminated Sandburg in a sectional semifinal. Marist is next.
84. Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Illinois)Current record: 31-7; Last week's ranking: 86
91. York (Elmhurst, Illinois)Current record: 34-4; Last week's ranking: 99
Moline (Illinois) Final record: 34-3; Last week's ranking: 43
Teams on the bubble (listed alphabetically)
Althoff, Crystal Lake Central, Edwardsville, Hersey, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Huntley, Lanark Eastland, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Marian Central, Minooka, Moline, Quincy, Sandburg, St. Francis, Stevenson