By Steve Robinson | November 18, 2012 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

ht before the Thanksgiving holiday, I attended some “Letter Of Intent” signing ceremonies for some local high school student athletes. We hear the phrase “Letter of Intent signing,” and I bet, collectively, in some people’s minds it congers up images of signing a top basketball or football prospect, right?

In the stories of the players I will tell you of here, you’d be wrong. This time, think Volleyball and Baseball.

At Normal Community West High School, Shelby Hinshaw and Rachel Amundson, both of whom are seniors on the Wildcats Volleyball team, having just wrapped up their team’s season, were in the school’s library, signing their letters of intent to play college volleyball. Shelby, daughter of Bill and Leanne Hinshaw of Bloomington; and Rachel, daughter of Paul and Kathy Amundson of Hudson, were signing to commit to the colleges of their choice.

Shelby will attend William Woods University in Fulton, Mo. Rachel will attend College of Coastal Georgia, based in Brunswick, Ga.

There were actually locally-based reasons for the girls’ individual choices, as it turns out. Rachel’s choice to go south has a regional angle to it, but more about that shortly.

These signings were, by no means, quiet affairs. Rather, they are a little like a mini-family reunion, in that relatives and friends turned out for the singings. There were photo ops with family members and friends, and sometimes, teammates.

Each athlete had a three-sided cardboard display with pictures of the players when they were younger in action shots or posed pictures from their days as youth or junior high players in their sport. Each athlete received either a framed picture or a cloth cover for the table bearing the name of the institution of higher learning they would soon be attending. The schools send those out to the athletes for just such an event, I later learned.

The guests of honor at most of these events, prior to signing their commitment in front of such a public crowd didn’t do much speaking, but instead, heard from their high school coaches who lauded praise and told a funny anecdote about the athlete while the coach has known them, as well as wished them good luck. Those in attendance also hear from the athlete’s future college coach, generally in an email, stating what they see in the athlete and how the athlete will benefit the new team and how the student will benefit from attending that particular college.

One of the college coaches – Monica Hershelman – may be entering her third season as head volleyball coach at William Woods University next season, but she is also a 2004 alum of Normal Community West High School. She attended the girls’ signing event. Hershelman, whose maiden name is Renfro, said she makes a point of doing some scouting for players in her hometown when she can.

“I like this area and Shelby is my first recruit from this area,” Hershelman said of Hinshaw. “This is my hometown and I want to recruit more players from Normal West.”

Paul Amundson told me while the selection of which school his daughter, Rachel, attended was all the choice of his daughter, he and his wife took comfort in knowing that Coastal Georgia head coach Jeff Huebner has his coaching roots in central Illinois, having coached a few years back at Tri-Valley High School in Downs.

“That fact alone gave us some comfort,” Paul Amundson said, adding that because Huebner had been in this area, “that told my wife and I our daughter would be in the care of” someone like themselves.

Later in the same day that Hinshaw and Amundson signed their letters, two Normal West baseball players were in West’s library also getting the same kind of attention because they were signing Letters of Intent to play baseball when they got to college. I also was present when Adam McGinnis and Matthew James formally signed their Letters of Intent.

Adam McGinnis, son of Rich and Robin McGinnis; and Matthew James, son of Brad and Denise James, are both sticking with baseball but traveling to opposite parts of the state to do it. McGinnis chose Western Illinois University in Macomb, while James is headed off to Champaign to play at the University of Illinois.

Their high school baseball coach, Normal West’s Chris Hawkins, told glowing stories about the guys as they sat ready to sign their intentions, just as his Volleyball counterpart, Kelsey Drendel, had done in introducing Hinshaw and Amundson. And the baseball players, like the volleyball players earlier in the day, were able to share the experience with friends and relatives, too, but also had teammates show up for the occasion.

A few days later, Alex Jefferson, who is a couple weeks away from suiting up for basketball due to the fractured tibia he suffered while playing quarterback in the annual “Chili Bowl” game against Normal Community High School in September, signed his Letter of Intent in the school’s library, with plenty of family and friends on hand. Alex, son of Andrew and Mary Jefferson, will play baseball for Missouri State University starting in the spring of 2014.

But before doing that, he will join McGinnis and James in playing their last year of high school ball together. And even after the high school baseball season starts next spring, it will be nearly a full year before the trio suits up for a college baseball game. It was an observation that was on Hawkins’ mind during the signings.

“The recruiting process is everchanging,” he explained of what he has seen happen over the years. “Over my 22 years of coaching H.S. baseball I have witnessed how much earlier our kids are now being identified and pursued. Early in my coaching career, it was usually not until spring of their senior year would a H.S. baseball player or I get contacted with interest from a university.”

Hawkins said social media use through cell phones, Twitter, and email by these universities are allowing for players getting contacted as early as their sophomore year. “Matthew James is a great example, who verbally committed to the University of Illinois during the summer after his sophomore season,” Hawkins explained. In addition, Hawkins continued, there is an “increase in the number of ‘showcases’ where players show off their skills for numerous levels of coaches from all over the country on one playing field during the winter and summer months.”

By the day Jefferson signed his letter, there was a little more fanfare involved. When Hinshaw and Amundson; and McGinnis and James signed, I was the only reporter in the room. Jefferson signed his letter in front of not just me, but also a reporter and photographer from the local daily paper and a one-woman crew from a Peoria TV station.

Again, the families were all smiles as they posed for pictures after the deed was completed. These young athletes have committed themselves. But “committing” sounds almost like the wrong word for this kind of circumstance, doesn’t it? “Committing to play” seems like an odd way to phrase what these kids and others like them do year after year, to my way of thinking. And that’s even if that has been the way it has been phrased in the media for decades. Wouldn’t the phrase “dedicated themselves to” come across as more positive sounding an explanation for what these kids are doing? It’s just a thought.

On another subject, University High School’s Boys’ basketball team found itself on a big stage on Dec. 1, playing at the Elite Classic in Chicago at the UIC Pavillion. But the Pioneers lost to Akron, Ohio-based St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, 68-65. Ohio State recruit Keita Bates-Diop scored 23 points for the Pioneers against the alma mater of Miami Heat player LeBron James. It was a big stage, but the outcome wasn’t what was hoped for. But the experience put U-High in a spotlight, which is always a plus – win or lose.

By Steve Robinson | November 17, 2012 - 10:14 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – At the Nov. 14 meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board, Board members were informed by the district’s business manager about the correlation between an increasing student population and the expenses necessary to meet their needs as that population number increases.

“We are seeing an increase in spending,” Erik Bush told Board members at the meeting, held at district headquarters. But at the same time, Bush said the district is staying balanced financially, as anticipated as the district pushes toward the halfway mark of its fiscal year. Unit 5’s fiscal calendar runs annually from July 1-June 30.

That increase in spending includes paying $575,000 more in salaries, as well as making sure expenses and revenues from recently-dissolved Mackinaw Valley Special Education Association are reflected on the district’s books. Unit 5 hired 28 more teachers than were hired by the end of last school year.

In terms of student numbers, Unit 5’s same day enrollment totals have the district educating 13,625 students on Oct. 31, as opposed to 13,264 students on the same day last year, an increase of 361 students or 2.72 percent.

The largest number of students entering on the elementary level happened at Benjamin Elementary and Sugar Creek Elementary, as Benjamin reported 711 students, up from 665 a year ago, an increase of 46 students; and Sugar Creek Elementary reported 566 students on Oct. 31, an increase of 48 students from what the school recorded a year ago.

George L. Evans Junior High School had the largest jump in same-day enrollment figures among the district’s middle schools from a year ago, when the school first opened. A total 60 new students joined EJHS’ ranks, giving the school a population of 727 students. But that number still has Evans trailing Kingsley Junior High School, the middle school with the largest population of all four middle schools. KJHS’ same day total on Oct. 31 was 889 students, an increase of 28 students from the same day figure a year ago.

Population numbers at the high school are roughly even, with Normal Community High School gaining 102 students from the same day a year ago, giving the school a population of 1,993 students; and Normal Community West High School losing a total of 104 students since the end of October 2011, giving the school a population of 1,595 students.

Because of such numbers, the district likely will begin looking at how to evenly distribute that many students before the next school year begins.

Strategic Plan Annual Review On Web: Dr. Sandy Wilson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, reported to Board members that the district’s annual Strategic Plan Annual Review, the blueprint the district uses to assess its progress and trends and check itself on goals achieved or being sought toward by the district, is now available on the district website.

Among the items disclosed in the 14-page review was that both Unit 5 and Bloomington District #87 have the exact comparison salary figure of $34,180.

As part of the annual review, Unit 5 measured itself against five other districts: Bloomington District #87; Edwardsville District 7; Plainfield #202; St. Charles 303; and Naperville #203.

The report indicates Unit 5, among the other schools mentioned, ranked 4th of the six districts with a 57% of the district’s teachers possessing Master’s degrees.

“Good News” About Volleyball And Komen Foundation: Normal Community West High School Head Volleyball Coach Kelsey Drendel and NCHS Head Volleyball Coach Christine Konopasek and their respective squads were recognized for their efforts to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s “Race For The Cure” to raise funds to find a cure for breast cancer. The event raised $2,600. In addition, the teams were recognized for a second event – a powder puff game to raise more funds for “Race For The Cure,” while at the same resurrect the powder puff event which had not been held a couple years.

NCHS Associate Principal Nikki Maurer told Board members students wishing to bring back the powder puff football event brought a proposal to the attention of NCHS Principal Dave Bollman and herself, “with a way to rejuvenate this event, and to change it to something new and better for our school, and our community.” The Powder Puff event raised an additional $1,600 for the Komen Foundation.

“Good News” About State Board Of Education Award Winners: A total of 14 people – 13 teachers and one individual on loan to the district from State Farm Insurance — were honored for their efforts in education by the Illinois State Board of Education at the ISBE’s “Those Who Excel” Awards banquet, held Oct. 20 at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

Receiving ISBE awards were district employees Michelle Lamboley, Jeff Monahan, Lori Stevens, Kevin Suess, and Amanda Zehr. Also receiving an ISBE award was Tom Laxton, an employee of State Farm, who has been on loan to the district courtesy of the insurer.

The district’s eight-woman Literacy Team also received an “Award of Excellence” as a group. Those receiving that award were: Sarah Arundale, Maureen Backe, Rexie Lanier, Jill Lyon, Lori Stevens, Jennifer Stork, and Trish Warner.

To all the recipients, Board President John Puzauskas said, “Thank you all. We on the Board are very proud of all of you.”

“Good News” Recognizing Board Members: November 15 was declared “School Board Members Day” in the State of Illinois. To acknowledge this, District Superintendent

Dr. Gary Niehaus presented each of the district Board members with a certificate. “We thank all the Board members for their willingness to serve the Unit 5 students,” Niehaus said.

Red Cross Honors NCHS Teacher Schonauer At Annual Event: NCHS teacher Derrick Schonauer was one of the honorees at the Heartland Red Cross Chapter’s annual “Saluting Our Heroes” Breakfast on Nov. 7 at the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington. Schonauer disarmed a student who brought a gun into his classroom during second period on Sept. 7.

On that day, according to media reports, the 14-year-old boy taken into custody after the incident allegedly took a handgun from his backpack toward the end of a first-period Health class. Criminal charges against the boy, however, indicate he had a small cache of weapons, including a hatchet, two knives, and two handguns. He is accused of firing one of the guns multiple times into the ceiling of the classroom. The school first went on lockdown and then was evacuated, with students taking refuge at neighboring Eastview Christian Church.

Board members watched a short portion of videotape prepared for attendees of the breakfast which recapped the situation and Schonauer’s comments about it.

By Steve Robinson | November 15, 2012 - 9:00 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Another high school fall sports cycle has been completed and time has come to give recognition to those student athletes whose teams gave their all this past season.

More than likely, as their respective seasons were in progress, high school football, volleyball, and soccer players, like college players, and possibly pro athletes, were too busy grinding through their seasons to think about rewards yet to come.

And at this young age, season-ending recognition for a job well done or season well-played probably does not enter into a high school athlete’s thinking, I would imagine. It might enter into their coaches’ thought process as they see players develop, but most likely, getting recognition is not high on the students’ minds.

But if it isn’t high on the students’ minds, you can bet the matter of seeing their names in the paper crosses the minds – not to mention warms the hearts – of the athletes’ parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives.

As is customary with this particular column, let’s start by looking at Volleyball first to see which of the local players were honored this season. El Paso-Gridley junior Rebekah Ehresman was a unanimous selection on the Heart of Illinois Conference all-star volleyball team when that roster came out earlier this month. This is the second consecutive year Ehresman has been so honored. Joining Ehresman on the HOIC First Team roster at the end of this season are Heyworth High senior Savannah Ross, and Erica Davis, a junior at Lexington High School.

Receiving honorable mention by HOIC this season were: Jenna Souhrada, and Alexis Yoder, both seniors at El Paso-Gridley; Ashley Hoegger, a senior at Heyworth; AshLynn Cowles, a junior at LeRoy; and Taylor Williams, a senior at Ridgeview High School.

In town, both Normal Community West High School and Bloomington High School found themselves each with three players on the Big 12 All-Conference squad. Normal West’s Rachel Amundson was one of a trio of local players who were unanimous choices for the All-Big 12 list. Joining her on that list were twins Mary and Molly Lawrence from Bloomington High School. For all three local girls, they were repeating being selected to the All Big 12 Team roster.

Normal West’s Maddy Moser and Tyler Brown and the NCHS duo of Machayla Leonard and Regan Coughlin were members of the First Team named by the Conference, as was BHS’ Sydney Hendricks.

Among the Big 12 Conference players garnering honorable mentions were Bree Ferguson and Molly Patkunas of Normal Community High School and Lindsay Caldwell and Jill Paska from Normal West, as did Bloomington High School’s Rachel Pierce, Keeley Hynes and Julie Laugel.

On the gridiron, there was plenty of excitement this season and post-season as a number of local and area teams made the post-season. Six players from two teams made First Team Offense list as selected by the Corn Belt Conference. From University High, those players were junior running back Joe Johnson; junior wide receiver Kane Wildermuth; senior guard Ben Schweitzer, and senior tackle Mitch Wallin. Bloomington Central Catholic High players named to the First Team Offense squad included junior guard Brian Eakle and senior tackle George Hoselton.

Among the local players who were named to the Offense’s Second Team were: U-High sophomore quarterback Arion Worthman; BCC junior wide receiver Cory Hartema; and BCC senior tight end Justin Segobiano.

Among the local players receiving an honorable mention by the Corn Belt Conference for their efforts this season were: BCC junior quarterback Tony Rettick; BCC senior running back Nate Atkins; BCC junior running back Kellen Kiley; U-High junior running back Bryan Sengsay; BCC junior wide receiver McKay Moews; U-High junior wide receiver Malik Wildermuth; BCC junior center Joe Layzell; and U-High senior center Ryan Matchett.

On defense, U-High and BCC nearly had an even number of players raking in First Team honors. U-High senior defensive end Carson Schumacher, senior defensive lineman Mitch Wallin, senior linebacker Jeff Larsen, junior defensive back Noah Larsen, and senior defensive back Gary Arvik represented the Pioneers on that list. BCC players also made their presence known on the Conference’s First Team Defense thanks to junior defensive end Brian Eakle, defensive lineman Hoselton, defensive lineman Segobiano, and junior defensive back McKay Moews.

Among the local players making the Conference Second Team Defense Unit roster were: U-High senior lineman Nate Corry and BCC senior linebacker Nate Atkins. Among the Corn Belt’s players on defense receiving honorable mention were: U-High senior linebacker Mitch Bottorff; BCC junior defensive back Cory Hartema; U-High senior defensive back Zach Zook; and U-High junior defensive back Malik Wildermuth.

McKay Moews from BCC received honors for his skills as a kicker/punter. U-High’s Luke Otto was honored as a Second Team Special Teams player. BCC’s McKay Moews received an honorable mention for his skills as a kick returner.

BHS senior kick returner McLean Funk was named unanimously as a First Team selection from the Big 12 Conference when awards came out earlier this month. Other First Team Selections from BHS included senior offensive linemen Cole Trickel and Jakob Scogin; junior quarterback Jake Romani; senior running back Emerson Evans; junior linebacker Austin Weltha; and senior defensive back Jessy Glaub.

Not to be outdone, NCHS senior offensive linemen Randy Heideman and Normal West’s Brady Stovall; Normal West senior quarterback Alex Jefferson; West senior linebacker Brady Boitnott; and NCHS junior linebacker D. J. Frank were also honorees on the First Team Offense by the Conference.

Boitnott reprised his standing as a first team player, as did Jefferson despite missing the Wildcats’ last five games of the season due to a fractured tibia. West senior Terrance Fisher was a first-team pick, too, on both sides of the ball, as both a receiver and defensive back. Also headlining the First Team list were West junior running back Dominique Stevenson, NCHS senior defensive lineman Logan Lay, West junior defensive lineman Kyrin Tucker and NCHS junior kicker Grant Donath.

LeRoy managed to make it the furthest in their playoff quest before Concord Triopia ended their season, and University High went undefeated in the regular season, edging into the post-season until a second round loss to Washington closed out their year. Regardless of how far our area teams got, they are all to be congratulated and honored, and their respective conferences took time to honor teams and players recently.

LeRoy senior Shane Bruning of HOIC champion Panthers was a unanimous two-way selection on the Conference all-star football team when that roster was announced recently.

Bruning picked up honors as both a running back and defensive back. This is the second straight year he was a pick for the league as an offensive player and his third consecutive honor as a defensive player.

Three of Bruning’s teammates — offensive lineman Ty Sandy and defensive linemen Matt Hamilton and Cory Eastham – lined up alongside Bruning for HOIC First Team honors.

Other players on HOIC First Team roster were: Ridgeview senior running back Josh Weier; Lexington senior wide receiver Jordan Algar;

Second Team Offensive Players named included: Lexington junior wide receiver Logan Kolat; El Paso-Gridley senior tight end Austin Hendren; Ridgeview offensive lineman Treavor Taylor; and Heyworth senior offensive lineman Scott Stephens.

HOIC players joining Bruning on Defense First Team were: Ridgeview senior linebacker Matt Barnes; LeRoy senior linemen Matt Hamilton and Cory Eastham. Finding themselves named to Second Team Defense by the league were: LeRoy linebacker D. J. Morgan; El Paso-Gridley senior linebacker Austin Hendren; Ridgeview senior defensive back; Zach Walker; Heyworth junior defensive back Kyle Schultz; Ridgeview senior lineman Wes Young; and Ridgeview junior lineman Christian Fannin. Ridgeview sophomore defensive back William Tinsley showed the league he was good enough to receive an honorable mention, too.

On the soccer field, three NCHS players and one Normal West player were named to the Big 12 Conference First Team by the Conference at season’s end. Normal Community seniors Austin Bange, Austen Bozart and Adam Bates; and Jose Fuentes, a senior from Normal West, found themselves being honored as a result. They were joined on the First Team by four BHS players: Seniors John Kissel and Gody Speer; and juniors Gustavo Paiva and Alex White. Bange, Bozart, and Bates were all unanimously selected to the all-star roster.

Among the locals who received honorable mention were: BHS sophomore Jared Collier; BHS seniors Jose Huerta, Kyle Humphrey, and Stephen Walther; BHS junior Josh Secord; NCHS sophomore Connor Oltman; Normal West freshman Adam Bauman; Normal West seniors Jeremiah Haywood, Adam Neuhauser, Nick Rice, Nick Luedtke, Ronnie Schocke, and James Sherman.

Needless to say, as far as team sports go, it has been a busy fall for our local school teams. It sound like a preview of things to come on the basketball court, doesn’t it (or at least something we can hope for….)?

NORMAL – Understanding that demonstrating fiscal responsibility was the goal, Normal Town Council members approved an ordinance authorizing the Town’s 2012 Property Tax Levy during the group’s regular meeting at City Hall Monday at Normal City Hall.

Town Staff had proposed a tax levy of $10,339,000. But Council members voted for a tax levy of $9,880,000 — a difference of $459,000. Mayor Chris Koos recommended to Council members that one way to reduce that difference would be to reduce the amount of money the Town proposed to spend on street repairs this winter.

The Town had planned to spend $1.24 million in its Resurfacing Budget on those repairs in fiscal year 2013-2014, but Koos recommended – and Council members concurred — using $300,000 of that total, kept in the Town’s general fund, and redirecting it to lower the tax levy.

The Town would still have $940,000 to use for street repairs as a result. The move leaves Town Staff to find cuts totaling $159,000 to help keep the Town’s tax levy at the same amount it was last year. Koos said he has asked Town Staff “to be frugal” in their efforts to accomplish that goal.

“We still have a good chunk of money we’re putting into streets” after making that move, said Council Member Cheryl Gaines.

Council member Jeff Fritzen noted that in addition to Normal, both Bloomington and McLean County elected officials are also “taking a conservative approach to this. We can’t be afraid to get tax revenues or new revenue sources.”

“Springfield and Washington, D. C. will push costs onto us and think they’ve solved the problem,” Fritzen told Council members. Turning to Koos, he added, “My support for your proposal is out of a vote of no confidence for State government.”

$5.5 Million In Property Taxes For Debt Service Abated: As a result of another unanimous vote, Council members approved ordinances authorizing the abatement of 2012 Property Taxes for debt service. A total of $5,506,711 in property taxes from the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2009(A), 2010(A), and 2012 General Obligation Bond issues.

In addition, Council members unanimously approved a motion authorizing an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Social Security and Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) budgets for the Town’s general fund. Town staff recommended the Social Security budget for fiscal year 2012-13 be increased by $58,080 and that IMRF budget be increased by $138,017 in order to give the Council budget authority to set the 2012 tax levy for the estimated costs anticipated for fiscal year 2013-2014.

Ordinance Approving Aggregation Of Electrical Services Passes: Following passage of a ballot measure earlier this month and two public hearings on Monday at Normal City Hall, Council members unanimously approved aggregation of electricity for the Town. Aggregation permits a municipality to negotiate the purchase price of the combined electric supply of its residents and qualifying small businesses. Normal now joins a total of 460 communities, townships, and counties throughout the State who have approved electrical aggregation.

Prior to the Council session, at the second of two public hearings held Monday on the aggregation issue, Normal resident Sharon Ford told Council members although she and her husband both voted for aggregation, but did not see statistics to indicate how much of that electricity would come from renewable energy.

Normal resident LaVonne Schultz wondered if her gas bills would be affected by aggregation. City Manager Mark Peterson told her they would not be.

Council member Adam Nielsen said whichever company is providing the electrical service, it must be done “at the lowest cost possible, otherwise, we are misleading the public.”

During the discussion before Council members approved the measure, Peterson said, “The highest priority of the communities going in to this is to reduce costs. Price will be the number one criteria considered.”

Chris Turner Appointed To Building Board Of Appeals: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Chris Turner to serve on the Town of Normal Building Board of Appeals. Turner, a Hudson resident is married and has two children. Turner is filling the unexpired term of Bob Hermes, who announced his resignation from the Board.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Meeting held Nov. 5, 2012.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Nov. 14, 2012.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and approve the purchase of diesel fuel from Bloomington-based Evergreen FS, Inc.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and approve a fuel dispensing system from Pekin, Ill.-based Oil Marketing Equipment, Inc. in the amount of $52,351 and approve a necessary budget adjustment.

• A motion to accept a bid and authorize Town Staff to enter into a contract with Bloomington-based Tarter Construction, LLC in the amount of $256,000 for the various building renovation projects at the City Hall Annex and the Normal Police Department; and approval of a recommended budget adjustment.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a license agreement with G Block Apartments LLC.

• An ordinance amending Section 7.18-3 of the Town Municipal Code to add property prohibited from installing or using a potable water supply well (Qik-N-EZ Gas Station, 1510 E. Vernon Ave. and vicinity).• An ordinance amending Section 4.4(D)(5)(g) of the Town Municipal Code pertaining to video gaming.

NORMAL – With Kyleigh Block and Lauren Anderson providing their team’s last three kills, Deer Creek-Mackinaw earned their very first State Volleyball Championship Saturday. The Lady Chiefs defeated Dakota, 25-23 and 25-21, coming from behind in the second match.

As fans of both teams watched the second match at Redbird Arena, the Lady Chiefs were down by as many as four, 19-15, before muscling their way back on one kill each by Kyleigh Block and Beth Mickna, and two kills from Lauren Anderson. Block led her team’s scoring, being credited with 10 points.

Deer Creek-Mackinaw (38-1) found themselves down early, 7-2, in game two, on the strength of a pair of serving aces by Jaycee Cleaver. During game two, Dakota marched to a 13-8 lead on the strength of a kill by Rachel Buck, aided by a Lady Chiefs serving error committed by Jessey Lee.

With the second game tied 20-all, the Lady Chiefs roared back for five of the next six points, on kills by Block and Anderson to claim victory.

Game one saw a Lady Chiefs squad that trailed Dakota (37-5) early on, but earn points on numerous Dakota attack errors made by Sarah Thompson and Eden Meier. Thompson scored a total of 17 points and committed a total of 10 attack errors during the contest. The Lady Chiefs pulled in front for good in the first game, 23-21, on one of those attack errors, with a kill by Block, giving her team the first win of the match.

Cayley Meiners had a game-high 19 assists in the contest, while defensively, Jessey Lee contributed 17 digs. Dakota got three serving aces from Jaycee Cleaver

Lady Chiefs head coach Mike Bohuis said there were “no words for the feeling I am experiencing. If anything, I have to give this team as much credit as I possibly can. This championship is a complete representation of the dedication, the selflessness, the teamwork – just every aspect of a good, quality athletic team. Give complete credit to them. They deserve it. They earned it. They did everything right this season that they could have done. It’s an unexplainable feeling.”

“This is just fantastic that we got the State title for our school,” Anderson said afterward at the post-game news conference. “It’s just fantastic. We came out and played our hearts out. We left in all out (on the court). It’s just a phenomenal feeling with this group of girls. We’ve grown so close together.”

“We’ve worked for this since day one,” Meiners added. “We wanted to put ourselves here. We’re just overjoyed. We’re overwhelmed. We couldn’t ask for a better team or a better group of girls.”

“It’s just so thrilling and it’s been a blessing to be on this team,” Block added. “A blessing of a win is awesome. It showed that our hard work really does pay off.”

“I definitely feel like we didn’t play our best game today,” Dakota head coach Shannon Williams told the media assembled afterward. “We played a very talented team. (Deer Creek-Mackinaw) was ready to go. They had good hitters and they were digging a lot of our balls, and they were blocking us quite a bit as well. They’re a very talented team and it’s too bad we didn’t come out on top today.”

Port Byron Riverdale, the team Deer Creek-Mackinaw defeated Friday to advance to the championship, took two of three matches from Albion-Edwards County to take third place, with scores of 25-15, 24-26, and 25-12.