ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –The Rockford Lutheran girls volleyball team is a young team, but that hasn’t stopped the Crusaders from advancing to the State Tournament. They’ll play ball at Redbird Arena this Friday afternoon in the Class 2A semifinals.
The Crusaders won 27 matches last season. They knew they had talent coming back, but their goal at the start of this season wasn’t exactly to reach State.
“Our goal was to turn the page and get past regionals, win a regional title,” said head coach Jordan Haverly. “It hadn’t been done, I think it was 14 years.”
The Crusaders have only three seniors on their varsity roster, but they have balance and they were sharpened by a regular season schedule that included matches against Hononegah, Boylan and Belvidere North.
“I think winning against Hononegah the first game that we played was really a potential like bar for us,” said junior outside hitter Lauren Spangler. “We really understood how we could actually play and how good we could actually be.”
“I think all of our positions we have really strong payers, not just one person that’s going to try to carry the whole team,” said senior libero Katie Angel.
The Crusaders have knocked off some very strong teams the last couple weeks. Rock Falls which had defeated the Crusaders during the regular season, then Lombard Montini, and then at the Super-Sectional Timothy Christian. Every time the Crusaders fell behind they were able to dig down and fight back.
“The most important thing in playing any sport is playing with heart and the drive to never give up and keep achieving greater things,” said Spangler.
“Both of our Sectional games were really hard,” said Haverly. “Montini was that David versus Goliath matchup.”
Going to State will be a new experience for these players, but not for coach Haverly. In 2007 she was a standout player on Rockford Keith Country Day’s volleyball team that finished second at State. That was the first Keith team to reach State. Since then three more have followed and all three won state championships. Haverly hopes this Crusaders team is the start of a similar run of State teams for Lutheran.
“They’re just paving the way. It’s all brand new.”
Haverly says the best way to approach state is with the attitude of simply playing your game and trying to enjoy the experience.
“Whoever can just relax and play and have fun and live in the moment is going to be the team that plays the best. That’s all I can hope for them.”
Lutheran (35-5) will play in the 2A semifinals Friday at 1:30 p.m. against St. Teresa (35-5) of Decatur. The other 2A semifinal at noon will have St. Joseph-Ogden (36-4) playing Breese Mater Dei (30-9).