By Steve Robinson | November 12, 2017 - 10:36 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonHaving never played sports in high school, I have no reference for how members of one team supported another at certain points of the year. But if you looked in the stands of Redbird Arena this last weekend, you got the feeling members of one team or another were eager to support the U-High Pioneers as they prepared for a Class 3A State Title at State Volleyball.

Even though U-High’s football team lost out on making the Illinois High School Association playoffs this season, there was a strong contingent of U-High supporters both days at the tournament and sitting closest to the action row in the school’s designated section in the arena were guys who had taken to the gridiron earlier this season. And not surprisingly, Pioneers senior quarterback Doug Holmes was in the front row.

“We’ve been ready all day Friday – all week, actually, — for this,” Holmes said. “The Volleyball team has been hyped all day and we believe in them and we’re ready to support them.”

The conversation I had with Holmes and some other sports team members took place before the Pioneers lost their semifinal match to Belleville Althoff in two games 25-13 and 25-21. Before that set started, you could feel the enthusiasm Pioneers fans had for their making it to State Volleyball for the first time in 17 years.

Holmes explained, “The members of the Volleyball team were at some home games and our away games every time they could if they had no game themselves.”

Senior Kearsten Personette sat a few rows behind Holmes waiting for that first match and said she was excited about her team’s trip up the road from their school to the arena.

Senior Ty Ziebarth, a member of the Pioneers boys’ basketball team, sat next to Holmes and said when he arrived at school Friday for his 8a.m. class “school was already bumping” with excitement, ready to go to the finals.

You could understand why there was the excitement and enthusiasm: The last time the Pioneers made State in this sport, some of those kids sitting in the stands had just been brought into the world.

The outcome of the semifinal was disappointing but still, Pioneers faithful knew they still had a shot bringing home some hardware for the school’s trophy case.

The support the girls got for the semifinal showed up for the consolation game, too. “Our school is supportive of each other, and it’s not just sports,” explained Mackenzie Banbaley, a senior and a member of the Pioneers Softball team. “Even if it’s theatre and dance, we turn out and support them no matter what.” Banbaley said before the game against Althoff that getting third or fourth “was still a great accomplishment for this team.”

“It’s been 17 years since we won two State championships in a row,” U-High Athletic Director Wendy Smith reminded, adding those were the years future Olympian Ogonna Nnamani was a team leader.

“We’ve seen our student body has been supportive of other teams and in particular, football players who’ve come to Volleyball games,” Smith said. “They’re pretty respectful of their classmates and want to support them and share and celebrate in the achievement.”

Sharing in this case meant needing to share that certain pain that goes with losing the semifinal but knowing that they would share in the success of a consolation victory which would allow head coach Mike Bolhuis’ troops to bring home a 3rd place trophy. That accomplishment was thanks to a hard-fought victory over Arlington Heights-based St. Viator by scores of 25-21, 19-25, and 25-19.

I can’t say whether there was that kind of togetherness among the teams when I attended U-High but it sounds like nowadays it has become almost routine and that also helps the school as a whole earn an additional victory regardless of what title is being sought after.

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