Prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner’s take on today’s volleyball super-sectionals:
There’s a reason Centennial (Class 3A) and Tri-County (Class 1A) have advanced to the Elite Eight in volleyball in their respective classes. It’s the same reason: veteran senior standout players.
Centennial (celebrating its sectional title, right) has an unheard-of nine seniors on the roster, and they aren’t just taking up space. They are all vital contributors and have been for years. Counting this season, those nine will have amassed 28 varsity letters just in volleyball. Lauren Cloyd, Kara Johnson and Allie Shannon are all four-year letter winners. Tri-County has fewer overall seniors (five), but their impact is just as great.
In truth, there’s a second reason those programs are still in contention for a state title. Say what you will about club volleyball and how it affects other sports, but the Chargers and Titans have advanced this far based on a significant number of athletes who play the game throughout the year.
Two other area schools are also in super-sectional matches today: Watseka (Class 2A) and Schlarman (Class 1A).
Both teams have a blend of seniors and underclassmen playing major roles. The Hilltoppers, though short on club players, have perhaps the most athletic team of any from the area this season. They have a group of players who are equally adept at other sports, in other seasons. Watseka and Schlarman tied their single-season school wins record in the sectional finals and can claim undisputed possession of the top spot with victories today.
Regardless of how this “Fantastic Four” fares in their super-sectional appearances today, a strong case can be made for this year as the best one overall for area teams in the 39 years the IHSA has sponsored a postseason volleyball tournament.