MINOOKA – Before the month of August was even complete, Minooka’s girls volleyball team realized that it couldn’t rest on the fact that it returned most of the starters from a talented group that was last year’s Class 4A state runner-up.
After a loss to Marist and a narrow win over Joliet Catholic Academy, the Indians have been hard at work trying to elevate their game with better serving and a more dangerous attack, in order to make another long playoff run.
If Tuesday’s home match against Plainfield East is any indication of their recent progress, it’s safe to say that other Southwest Prairie Conference opponents won’t relish facing coach Carrie Prosek’s team in the future.
Minooka looked good in nearly all facets as it jumped out to decisive advantages in both sets to pick up an easy 25-10, 25-11 victory over the Bengals.
“We’ve been concentrating on our serve-receive and defense, and when that comes together, our pin hitters are good, but we’ve also been concentrating on shots,” Prosek said. “When we played JCA and Marist, they were blocking our pin hitters, who were bigger than them, so we’ve been working on how to hit off of hands. Instead of just going up there and flinging, now we’re really focused on our shots and their placement.
“I think this was probably the toughest that we’ve served all year and that’s one thing that we need to add to our game, so hopefully we continue to do that as the season progresses. We practice probably an hour and a half a day on ball control and serve-receive. We’re switching up drills to make it more interesting and fun instead of just pounding the ball. The girls are working together as a team and all really like each other, which is nice to see.”
In the opening set, Alli Papesh (eight kills) used three early kills and an ace to go with kills from Olivia Klank (two blocks), Rocky Perinar (seven kills) and Holly Bonde, grabbing a 13-4 lead, that was capped by a 5-0 service run from Taylor Baranski (10 digs).
A kill by Papesh led to another 5-0 spurt from the service line, this time from Bonde, which included two aces and two kills from Perinar to boost the host’s lead to 19-5, and they ended things after another kill from Papesh and two kills from Sammi Hermann.
“We want to keep our level of play up through the entire match,” Papesh said. “We can’t rely on our hitters all of the time, we have to focus on serve-receive and keeping the other team out of system. They were pretty good passers so we had to serve a little harder and Rocky’s serving really helped since it gave our defense a better chance to pick up the ball so that we could put it back away. In practice we’ve really been focused on mixing up our shots since it’s about finding the holes. The pieces are slowly starting to come together for us.”
Things were more competitive during the early stages of the final set as East got to within 13-9 before the hosts began to pull away. Cailey Zack (five kills) collected two kills during that stretch while Sam Rendon and Asia Owens also added kills to keep things close.
However, Perinar got a kill to send her behind the line and she served up the next eight points, with three coming on aces, to give the Indians a 22-9 lead. Rylee Ritchey and Hermann added late kills for Minooka, which also got 20 assists from Zoey Seput.
“We’ve been practicing a lot on all sorts of things, like serving, defense, hitting and blocking,” Hermann said. “Our main focus is passing, since that’s kind of the start of how a play runs. And we’re learning to play smarter, rather than just hitting away every time. We’re working hard and are excited to take the next step and go day-by-day. We also want to have fun since if we’re having fun, winning is more fun, too. I’m excited with how well we’re doing.”