Centennial's classy state appearance

Veteran reporters, by nature, are cynics. And, usually, there's good reason for the skepticism.

When you've covered state tournaments of some sort for more than three decades, it's easy to predict what losing coaches will say in advance of their time in the interview room.

"We didn't play well today." (Translation: we would have beaten this team on another day.)

"There were several calls that went against us and we weren't able to recover." (Translation: the reason for the beatdown was the refs.)

"It wasn't our day." (Translation: we're not going to credit the opponent for what they did against us.)

Think about it. By not accepting blame, or by placing it elsewhere, it softens a team's loss. If a coach confesses that his team played its best, or that every official's call was perfect, then there can be just one conclusion: The other team was superior.

Stan Bergman, and his Centennial volleyball team, changed the tone of post-match press conferences during Friday's opening round of the Class 3A state tournament at Illinois State University.

They acknowledged how well they played. The performance, the effort, the intensity. It was all good.

Only the outcome wasn't. The Chargers suffered a three-set semifinal loss to Wheaton St. Francis.

Centennial didn't offer excuses. Instead, the players offered compliments to the opponent. The Chargers gave everything they had, and it wasn't enough. "No regrets," setter Lexi Hall said. "We played the best we could."

Where did this team come from?

"I loved the match," Bergman said. "It was the kind we wanted, to be challenged, to be pushed. I want to play another one."

I hope somebody was recording this press conference. I'd much rather hear this honest and refreshing view of a loss than the endless and boorish excuses.

St. Francis, meanwhile, gave it right back to the Chargers. Peg Kopec, who is not only the winningest volleyball coach in state history, but also one of the nicest, praised the squad that her team squeaked past by the minimum two points in the tiebreaking final set.

"Centennial is a fabulous team," Kopec said. "We had to play the best we could to beat them."

This is a story you don't hear every day. Take it from a reporter who has covered more than three decades of champions ... and non champions.

Centennial had plenty of spectators cheering in the northeast section of Redbird Arena. That may not be the only place the team had fans.

 

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