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Members of the Fieldcrest volleyball team celebrate after winning the Class 2A El Paso-Gridley Sectional. Seniors Gracie Wiesenhofer (No. 11), Kaitlyn Petersen (No. 12), Kenzie Meyer (No. 20), Haley Ruestman (No. 8) and Kirstyn Petersen (fourth from left) have helped the Lady Knights go from 11 wins thier freshman year to the state tournament. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
MINONK — Kenzie Meyer wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
After all, Meyer and the four other seniors on the Fieldcrest volleyball team practically do everything else together.
One of five seniors on this year’s Lady Knights squad — which will play in this weekend’s IHSA Class 2A state tournament — Meyer couldn’t have imagined making the postseason run to state without the other four seniors.
“We’ve all been friends since elementary school and we always hang out after practices,” Meyer said. “We’re all such close friends, and it’s extra special that we get to do this with everyone.”
This year’s senior class has provided the foundation to this year’s team and has helped advance the program over the past four seasons.
As more and more members of the senior class saw more and more playing time over the years, the program’s win total has gradually risen to the point where Fieldcrest is 33-4-1 this season and on the eve of playing in its first state tournament.
“I think if you look at all the seniors and combine their experience, it’s a big reason why we have gotten this far,” Fieldcrest coach Cathy Sanders said. “It’s their experiences from their first year to this year that has carried them and motivated them.”
As they have grown up together, so has the program.
“We’re all really good friends, so that’s been a key when it comes to playing because we all have really good chemistry,” senior Haley Ruestman said. “It’s pretty cool to get to experience this with your close friends, instead of having just one friend on the team. Since all the seniors are really good friends, it’s cool to watch everyone have a really good time.”
This year’s senior class has been the core to the squad.
Outside hitter Kaitlyn Petersen has started since her freshman season and leads the team with 277 kills, while setter Gracie Wiesenhofer is a three-year setter and in her fourth year dressing on varsity. She has a team-high 494 assists.
Ruestman, an outside hitter, has played varsity for three seasons and dressed for all four years. She is third on the team with 238 kills, while Meyer is in her second year at libero and is the team’s stabilizing force, while outside hitter Kirstyn Petersen — Kaitlyn’s twin sister — has played a key role this season off the bench.
“Their freshman year we won 11 games, but every year it’s gotten better and better,” Sanders said. “They’ve come up through it together and I think that’s bonded them more than people realize or even they realize. They remember what it was like their first year when we couldn’t hit .500, and then they remember when we went over .500 — and last year losing to EPG in three sets (in the regional final) was key because they didn’t forget it. They’ve taken their experiences and have learned from it.”
Learning from their freshman season all the way to the state tournament.
“Playing varsity early in our careers helped because we got the feel for it,” Meyer said. “I think varsity has been fun to play on even when we were at a young age. It’s definitely helped us a lot.”
It’s helped to cement the bond that has provided the foundation for the Lady Knights, who will play on the final day of the volleyball season for the first time in program history.
“It’s kind of surreal to get to state,” Meyer said. “We’ve never got that far before, so it’s been awesome to get this feeling. Working together as a team has helped us a lot. Even if somebody gets down, someone is always there to pick them back up.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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