JOLIET — The Minooka Indians girls volleyball team finds itself in a familiar spot as for the third consecutive season, the Indians will play for a regional title. The Indians defeated Joliet Central 25-11, 25-20 Tuesday to advance to the regional final.
In the opening game, both teams came out strong, exchanging points early on. When the Indians tied the game at 4-4, however, they took over. Minooka went on a 13-4 run after that, jumping out to a commanding 17-8 lead. After some more back-and-forth action, the Indians were able to put away the Steelmen on a kill from junior Skyler Day, giving Minooka the 25-11 Game 1 victory.
“We knew we had to come out and win Game 1,” Day said. “We knew that there was some good competition on the other side and we had to come out with a lot of energy.”
“We came out like gang busters, just like we had done Monday,” head coach Chris Hoelscher said. “We came out very strong and were able to win.”
Game 2 started out just like how Game 1 ended, with the Indians seizing control early. With Minooka leading 12-6, Joliet Central called a timeout, trying to re-group. Knowing their season was on the line, the Steelmen responded, fighting their way back in the contest. Central went on an 11-6 run to tie the game at 17-17. The Indians called a timeout after the game was tied.
“We had a big letup,” Hoelscher said. “We started tipping the ball, and at that point we needed to use our advantages, which is our strength and our size. We needed to stop trying to finesse them, and that’s what I told them during that timeout.”
“We knew coming out of that timeout that we needed to be more focused,” Day added. “We knew we had some mistakes and we needed to just re-group as a team.”
Minooka responded to its coach. Coming out of the timeout and overpowering the Steelmen. It started with a kill from Jessica Karalow to make it 18-17. A kill on the next play from senior Bailey Sachtleben then made it 19-17, and the Indians rolled from there.
Up 24-20 facing match point, Minooka went to its ace, Day, to finish it off. Sure enough, the junior responded, sending a kill down the middle of the court to seal the 25-20 Game 2 victory for the Indians.
“It’s pretty satisfying getting the last point of the game,” Day said. “It’s definitely a big confidence booster for me.”
A big storyline throughout the night was the play of Tessa Griparis for the Indians. Playing up front most of the game, she was able to contain Central’s T’ara Austin, a senior outside hitter headed to Northern Illinois next year. Except for a couple early points in Game 2, Austin was shut down, helping Minooka get the victory.
“Tessa has played with her for three years in club volleyball, so she knows her game very well,” Hoelscher said of Griparis’ performance against Austin. “She knows what she can do, so it was a little easier for Tessa today.”
he win Tuesday night puts the Indians in the regional title game for the third consecutive season under Hoelscher. Minooka will have its hands full Thursday at six, though, as it will take on top-seeded Bradley-Bourbonnais for the regional title, a team the Indians beat last year for the regional championship.
“The most important thing for this group is that it’s a goal, and it’s something we sent out to do,” Hoelscher said. “Tomorrow we’re going to scout Bradley as best we can and show them what Bradley tends to run. If you have an idea of what the other team is running, then you feel a little more comfortable and anticipate their next move.”