Written with the assistance of Elizabeth Cooley
After beating Munster High School, becoming conference champs, and making it farther into the State Tournament than any other Andrean volleyball team, one might say that the 2016 varsity volleyball season was pretty successful.
In any case, that’s what coach Grant Bell thought. “We prepared as best as we could, and we came out to compete every time. The girls accepted my system right from the start, and that’s all I could ask for. I was tested way farther than I thought I was going to be, but looking back it was a great season,” Bell said. “They do so many things well. When you combine that with how freakishly athletic most of our girls are, this is what you get.”
The girls swept through conference, Sectionals, Regionals, and the first round of Semistate, but the road came to an end in the Semistate Championship with Yorktown, a nationally-ranked team. The girls weren’t able to see their opponents play beforehand, but their coaches reassured them that they had the ability to make it to State.
“We were still pretty nervous just because of all the talk about this team and how they were ranked number one in the state; it kind of scared us a little and it took us off our game,” said outside hitter Jenna Dal Santo. “We got more momentum and energy against Mishawaka Marian because we knew we could beat them, but against Yorktown our confidence level just kind of went down after the first set, so it made the energy go down.”
For seniors Korie McCrea and Danielle Moynihan, the end of the Yorktown game also meant the end of their high school volleyball careers. “I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be my last game, but I knew there was a possibility so I knew I had to play my hardest, just like any regular game,” Moynihan said. For McCrea, the end came as a shock.
“It didn’t really feel like my last game until the last five points of the third set when we were about to lose,” McCrea said. “I was sitting next to Grace O’Brien on the bench, and I looked at her with my eyes filled with tears and said ‘I can’t do it.’ I couldn’t hold myself together after realizing I would never play another high school volleyball game again.”
After playing club and school volleyball together for many years, the instant chemistry among team members shouldn’t come as a surprise. “My teammates were some of the most highly talented girls I’ve ever played with and our record reflected that,” McCrea said. “We gave it our all, and never took a game for granted.”
This season’s big win was over Munster High School. The team hadn’t had a victory over Munster since 2012, and the girls had been waiting to have a go at the Mustangs since the beginning of the season. “When the competition gets tougher, these girls step up to another level,” Bell said. “They fight for every point and for one another.”
After a victorious season like this one, the team is looking to more opportunities next year. However, after losing five seniors, the team has some work to do. “The juniors this year have been with the seniors these past three years, and I think it’ll be very different … they were a big part of our team, and I think just the chemistry level that we had this year was amazing, and I think that would be a big difference for next year,” Dal Santo said. “We’re just missing a couple good offensive players from this past year, but I think we’ll still be getting past sectionals next year.”
As far as next year’s post-season? “I know we could make it to Semistate, I believe in our team,” Dal Santo said. It’s up in the air, but the team is looking forward to lots of opportunity.