Bolingbrook has been a girls basketball powerhouse for so long it's difficult to remember when the Raiders were a force in volleyball.
Bolingbrook appears poised to break into the ranks of the state's better volleyball programs thanks to coach Andrea Bercot and a commitment on the part of its players to participate in club volleyball during the off-season.
One of Bolingbrook's top players - 5-10 senior Ciara Hill - played on Sports Performance's 18 Elite team that finished third at the AAU nationals, while 5-9 junior Krissa Gearing played on the SPVB 16 Elite team that finished fifth in the 16 Open division in Orlando.
Other top players were also busy during the club season. Five-foot-11 senior setter/rightside Marissa Markus played for Spri's No. 2 17s team, and 5-8 senior outside hitter Alexa Piekarski played for Illinois Performance Volleyball's 17 Black team.
"It's exciting," Bercot said after watching her team reach the Gold division quarterfinals of the Thursday Girls Varsity League at the Great Lakes Center. "Three girls played at Sports Performance and everybody else played club somewhere. It's going to help a lot."
Bolingbrook finished 13-20-1 last season. In girls basketball at Bolingbrook, that would have been considered a debacle. In volleyball, it's a step forward.
"Bolingbrook has always had a losing season in volleyball," Bercot said. "It's always had a reputation and we're always going to have that ugly shadow over us. But I want the girls to work through that this year, and if I had to sum up the one thing that it's going to take...it's confidence.
"I want them to see that they can keep up with the best teams in the state, that they are one of the best and they should ride that confidence and play hard and not worry about the past," she added. "If they can do that, then this year could be a breakthrough season.
"Hopefully, this season can be a huge turning point for the direction of the program, that we will no longer be thought of as losers, that we can compete, we can win, and we can have a whole different mentality approaching each game."
Bolingbrook has already taken a huge step forward this summer by learning how to win on the tough summer stage at Great Lakes.
"Learning to win and having that closing mentality where they say. 'Give me the ball. I can do this. I will do this' instead of the mentality 'I hope I can do this,'" is important," Bercot said. "I feel that's where we have been when we've been in tight situations. It's always been, 'I hope I can do this.'
"Hopefully, we will shift it to 'I can. I will.'"
Bolingbrook will face a number of severe tests early this fall, facing the likes of Neuqua Valley, Oswego East, Batavia and Joliet Catholic during the non-conference portion of its schedule. The Raiders then wrap up the regular season with an overnight trip to the United Township tournament in Moline.
"That tournament at the end of the season is good for us," Bercot said. "It allows us to reconnect as a team right before the state tournament."
Meanwhile, Bercot is hoping that her seniors step up and take ownership of a team that could establish a new tradition at Bolingbrook.
"We've been talking back and forth," Bercot said. "It's something they have to do. But how are they going to handle this newfound pressure now that they're the leaders and all eyes are on them? I think that's an adjustment they can handle."