Varsity Volleyball Finishes 2nd in State

Coach+Loika+talks+to+his+team+during+a+timeout+against+Loyola+Academy+in+the+State+Semifinal+game+

Kyle Laska

Coach Loika talks to his team during a timeout against Loyola Academy in the State Semifinal game

The girls varsity volleyball team capped off a fantastic season with a second place finish in the IHSA Class 4A playoffs. This was the best finish in school history for girls volleyball.

The Wildcats finished their season with an outstanding record of 35-7. The Cats rolled through the state playoffs, with each game being as difficult as the last. The team brought home a Regional title after defeating New Trier in 3 games. They captured a Sectional title by defeating Carmel in 3 games. They then clinched their trip to Illinois State University for a chance at the State title by defeating Crystal Lake South in 3 games for the Super Sectional title. The Cats continued to fight in each game, even when it looked like they were points from elimination.

In a must win game to send the team to the state championship game, the Cats came up big and took down Loyola Academy, 21-25, 25-22, 25-11. Much like their win against Crystal Lake South, the team started out slow, but came back in a big way to win. The girls didn’t panic, they simply regrouped and came back strong. According to head coach Greg Loika, this had been the case all year.

“We definitely had lapses during this season and the post-season was no exception to that. What we knew along the way is that if we played our game, our way, we could accomplish just about anything.  What occurred against Loyola, interestingly also happened in the Elite 8 against Crystal Lake South.  We were the better team all along – but it’s not about that in the playoffs, it’s about who’s better that night. I was extremely proud that they decided they weren’t done winning and found the strength to keep going in that semi-final. That’s something that has been part of the core of this team all season long,” said Loika.

The team knew that they had to be at their best every game they played in. While volleyball is very much a team sport, relying on multiple players touching the ball on each play, it is hard to look past some of the individual players. Senior Alex Basler, bound for Cornell University next year, has been one of the most dominant middle blockers in the area, as well as accounting for a great amount of kills. Senior Lizzie Apgar was the team’s setter, as well as a verbal leader. Apgar had over 600 assists and over 200 digs this season. Obvious to anyone watching the game, Apgar had no problem being a leader on the court as she encouraged and instructed her teammates between plays. Sophomore Morgan O’Brien, the team’s libero, made a huge impact on the team, even though she is one of the younger players on the team. O’Brien was a leader in terms of statistics, being one of the highest total points scorers, and one of the leaders in aces. All 3 players were members of the Lake County All-Area team this past season.

These three were great players for the Cats, but playing together as a team was the Wildcats greatest strength. Senior Lizzie Apgar used her role as captain to help keep everyone playing together and smoothly, which surely helped them fight back in games they were down early.

“We have always been a really close team and I think the playoffs made us closer. We never had any drama on this team and that really helped us through the playoffs to help stay focused on the task of winning,” explained Apgar.

The team, united, did something no other girls volleyball team at LHS has ever done: Play in the state championship game. The Cats were matched against Benet Academy, a volleyball powerhouse, who have played in each of the last 4 state championship games. After defeating the Wildcats, they improved to 3-1 in those games.  Although the Cats were unable to get things going in the game, they played hard and were able to walk away with a 2nd place trophy. This, according to Coach Loika, is a great accomplishment for not just this team, but for the entire LHS girls volleyball program.

“These girls all deserve to be very proud that they’ve accomplished something that no other team in our program has. It certainly has set the bar higher for future classes – now there is only one rung left – and that would be a state championship to top what this team has done.  For these seniors it is a culmination of a 4 year career in a place where many don’t ever get to see, and for the underclassmen, it is a challenge to try to put themselves in a place in the future to further the ‘Wildcat Volleyball’ storyline.  This is something these girls will be able to look back and cherish for a very long time as will we as coaches.  The way the pieces to the puzzle fit together – resulted in an outstanding team – they did it together.”