NORMAL — The La Salle-Peru volleyball team was grateful for the overwhelming support it received all weekend at the Class 3A state tournament at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena.
The Lady Cavaliers had the larger crowd Friday and Saturday, and when the teams received their medals and trophies, L-P received the loudest cheers — even louder than repeat state champion Wheaton St. Francis.
“When we run out, we love seeing all the red and green on like half the stands,” L-P senior Rachel Hunt said. “It’s a really good feeling to have all those people come and support you. We love all the support from the school and the community.”
La Salle-Peru athletic director D’Wayne Bates said that ISU security told him they had never seen a crowd for state volleyball as large as L-P’s.
“To walk out of the tunnel and see all the red and green, it takes your breath away,” L-P coach Mark Haberkorn told the crowd at L-P’s rally in the West Gym on Saturday night.
The support for the team continued when the Lady Cavaliers arrived back in the Illinois Valley as people lined the streets in the district’s towns to cheer as the team was escorted by emergency vehicles and trailed by cars full of fans.
L-P superintendent Steven Wrobleski told the crowd at the rally that police told him they had never seen a parade with that many cars.
“During the parade, we kept saying that we couldn’t see the end of the line,” Haberkorn told the crowd.
Strike up the band
L-P senior Lisa Hallen did her part to show support for the Lady Cavs on Saturday.
After attending Saturday’s match, the trumpet player in the Cavalier band gathered several other bandmates to perform at Saturday’s rally.
The pep band played the school fight song as the Lady Cavs entered the gym and played several other songs throughout the rally.
Not looking forward
Haberkorn was asked in the post-match press conference about trying to repeat the feat next season with so many players coming back, but he preferred to focus on this season.
“I’d rather just talk about the present than the future,” Haberkorn said. “These plaeyrs are the ones who have accomplished so much this year. I know we like to look to the future, but I like to enjoy now. It’s going to be a long time before I start thinking about next year. I really enjoyed what we’ve done this year and the ride.”
However, at the rally Saturday night, Haberkorn told the crowd that the weekend with the team was so fun that he wouldn’t mind taking them for another weekend.
“Hopefully, it’s next year at Redbird Arena,” Haberkorn said.
While the Lady Cavs lose seniors Hunt, Katie Olson, Abby Turczyn, Jenessa Huebbe, Haley Duncan and Josie Kampwerth, they do return several key players, including hitters Taylor Gibson, Cierra Johnson, Ellie Senica and Shana Puetz.
Another state trip
Turczyn experienced a state tournament once before as she was a freshman on L-P’s 2011 state softball runner-up.
She played in the state semifinal as a pinch runner but did not get into the softball state title game, so Turczyn enjoyed playing a larger role this time around.
“It’s a great experience,” Turczyn said. “As a freshman I didn’t play for softball. I was just kind of on the team. To come here my senior year and play volleyball and be a big part of the team, it means a lot. It’s a great feeling to go out there and play in a state game. It’s just incredible to be here.”
A family moment
When Duncan stepped off the podium after receiving her medal Saturday, a familiar face was waiting to hug her.
Duncan’s cousin, Raeann Huhn, is the principal at Wheaton St. Francis. Huhn also is a La Salle-Peru graduate.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.