Bloomington Central Catholic wins state 2A volleyball championship

By: By Tom Dermody

BLOOMINGTON — Just days before Thanksgiving, there is plenty of gratitude being voiced as Central Catholic High School celebrates its first state championship in girls’ volleyball.

“I want to thank the girls,” said head coach J.R. Bannister, his voice breaking with emotion during a rally at the school a day after the Saints’ captured the Illinois Class 2A title with a 25-20, 25-21 win over previously unbeaten Orion at Redbird Arena on Nov. 14. “It’s been a heckuva ride.”

At Sunday’s rally in the school auditorium, Bannister and the team’s four seniors — Sydney Shanks, Claire Boe, Alyssa Osterbuhr, and Carli Nafziger — shared the spotlight with others by thanking assistant coaches, parents, the student cheering section, and all who gave them support throughout the championship year.

The Saints finished the season with a record of 35-5 and riding a 26-game win streak. They advanced to the title game by defeating Elmhurst Timothy Christian in the semifinals on Nov. 13.

“I’ve never been on such a hard-working, driven and loving team,” said Boe. “We’re all super close.”

The words “team” and “joy” were among the most frequently heard during the rally and later interviews.

“They exude joy on the court and in the hallways throughout the year,” said Sean Foster, principal. “They had fun, and understood what it means to be part of a team and to sacrifice for one another.”

Kate Hoerdemann, who had a 6-0 run at the service line to help bring the team back from a 16-9 deficit in the second set against Orion, said the Saints remained confident even when trailing.

“We knew what we had to do,” she said. “We knew we had to fight back,” added Hoerdemann, saying she will always remember the “awesome feeling” when the final point was won and the team celebrated on the court.

After the game, the Saints received a police escort back to Central Catholic, where the champions then cheered on the school’s football team, which was playing in the state tournament. The volleyball team was introduced at halftime.

Bannister, in his fourth year as head coach, noted how the Saints got stronger as the year went on, achieving a level of quickness on the court opponents had trouble matching. He praised his team’s hard work, dedication and “family togethermess” which he said is a necessary ingredient of a state championship team.

In an opening prayer at Sunday’s rally, Msgr. Greg Ketcham thanked God for “these amazing young ladies” and the historic season, which he called “a time to grow and a time to achieve.”

“May they always have warm hearts, memories, and feelings about their team, the friendships they share, and their families and friends who support them throughout this year and beyond,” prayed Msgr. Ketcham.

Members of the team pictured above after their championship win are, front row from left, seniors Sydney Shanks, Claire Boe, Alyssa Osterbuhr, and Carli Nafziger, as well as Kennedy Sheehan and Maddie Holt; second row, assistant coaches Isabella Dochnal and Amy Peterson, Claire Swanson, Maddie Malinowski, Meg Deneen, Erika Moore, Hannah Kownick, and assistant coach Teresa Ulrich; back row, assistant coach Jaclyn Lindsey, Morgan Koch, McKahl English, Bailey Coffman, Callie Slater, Kate Hoerdemann, head coach JR Bannister, and Sean Foster, principal of Central Catholic. (Provided photo/Scott Vogel, Central Catholic)

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