December 6, 2021 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO volleyball state preview: In the players’ own words

Before the St. Joseph-Ogden High School volleyball team plays Breese Mater Dei at noon on Friday in a Class 2A state semifinal match at Redbird Arena in Normal, we had each player explain the season and a variety of other topics (they’re big on superstitions) in their own words:

Kenly Taylor, senior defensive specialist, No. 3
The best part of this season … has been our team chemistry. It is hard to find a group of girls like these. I 100 percent trust every single one of them, and I have been so blessed to play with them for so long. I love that we all get along and how we feed off of one another. We help each other through ups and downs.

Being a part of such a successful program … is both fun and challenging to rise to people’s expectations along with our own.

Coach Abby McDonald … has kept us from not losing sight of our goal and trying to push to reach our full potential. She has supported us from the beginning, and she wants us to finish this season strong.

Making it to state with this team … is a dream come true. We have all had this idea that we could make it because we believe it’s our turn. All of us have known our capabilities as a team, and now that this moment is here, we want to make the most of it.

One superstition I have is … wearing the exact same outfit every gameday this postseason and also doing a handshake before every game in the locker room. As a team, we have the tradition of always going out to eat together every Tuesday and ever since freshman year, we have prayed as a team before every game.

Stephanie Trame, senior middle blocker, No. 4
The best part of this season … is the team. We all get along and are friends, so we have so much fun together with everything we do.

Being a part of such a successful program … is awesome, but it also brings a lot of pressure to measure up to the success of the past. Although, that motivates us even more because we want to contribute even more to this successful program.

Coach Abby McDonald … always encourages me and pushes me to do my best. It’s cool to finally be a part of this team and playing for coach McDonald because I grew up going to her camps.

Making it to state with this team … is really exciting because we have been playing together since fourth grade and have grown up around the game. This has been a dream since we won state in eighth grade and they made it in 2016.

One superstition I have is … every Tuesday we go to Lindsey’s grandma’s house where we have team lunch. During the postseason, we wear the same clothes to each game. We also have assigned seats on the bus that we can’t switch up.

Rylee Stahl, senior defensive specialist, No. 5
The best part of this season … has been the team. Our whole team gets along very well, and we do a lot of things together outside volleyball, like escape rooms and just hanging out. It is always a fun time when we are together, no matter what we’re doing. Also, the fact we made it to state and get to play at Redbird Arena, a goal we’ve had since freshman year, makes this season even better.

Being a part of such a successful program … is amazing. This team has accomplished every goal we set for ourselves this season, with just one goal remaining. It’s amazing to see the support we have gotten from the community as a whole as well. Accomplishing our goals with the tremendous amount of support we are getting from everywhere feels so good.

Coach Abby McDonald … does a good job keeping us focusing on ‘right here, right now,’ which has been our saying throughout the year. Oftentimes, the team is looking ahead to other practices or games, but coach does a good job reminding us to stay focused on what is going on right now. Last year, we got too caught up in our end goal, which obviously did not work well for us. This year, she has helped us to stay focused on what is going on right now, which has made us much more successful this season.

Making it to state with this team … is an indescribable felling. This team is, by far, one of the best teams I have ever been on. Everyone’s focus is on the team and what it will take for the team to be successful. I feel blessed we will end our volleyball careers with a state trophy.

One superstition I have is … every Tuesday the team goes to Lindsey’s grandma’s houser for lunch and eats the lunch her grandma makes for us. Also, since the postseason started, the team has worn the same exact clothes to school on days we have games. We also sit in the same seats on the bus on the way to every game. Finally, before every game, we pray together as a team.

Lacey Kaiser, senior middle blocker, No. 6
The best part of this season … would definitely have to be this postseason run that we have been making.

Being a part of such a successful program … something I have dreamed about. I have dreamed about making it to state ever since I first started playing volleyball. All the practices and games lead to this moment. Being a part of such a successful program has allowed me to pursue this dream with some of the best teammates and friends.

Coach Abby McDonald … has taught me more about the game I love. Playing for coach McDonald has been a great experience.

Making it to state with this team … means everything to me. They are not only my friends and teammates, but also a part of my family.

One superstition I have is … before every game, I drink a pink lemonade, and each game I wear a different hairstyle.

Katelyn Berry, senior outside hitter, No. 10
The best part of this season … experiencing the postseason wins with this team.

Being a part of such a successful program … is extremely fun when you are successful. This program pushes us to be our best.

Coach Abby McDonald … has expected a lot from us since our freshman year, which has made us so much better. I love playing for coach McDonald.

Making it to state with this team … means so much because we have gotten so close, and I’ve been playing with this group of seniors for a long time.

One superstition I have is … I wear the same outfit every gameday, have a certain ponytail I wear every game and our team says the same thing in the huddle before every game.

Emily Bigger, senior setter, No. 12
The best part of this season … is definitely making it to state. We have grown so much as a team throughout the season and have practiced hard so we could get to this point. Our hard work has paid off.

Being a part of such a successful program … makes playing that much better. It also makes us work harder because we know every team we face is going to want to beat us. Personally, I am so competitive, so winning is always a great thing.

Coach Abby McDonald … is always pushing me and my teammates to get better. Not only is she our coach, but she is a great person to talk to off the court. We have all had great conversations, so knowing she cares about us as individuals makes it feel great playing for her.

Making it to state with this team … is like a dream come true. We have been dreaming and hoping for this opportunity since we got into high school. This team has the strongest bond, so it makes it even more special to do it with some of my closest friends.

One superstition I have is … I’ve worn the same outfit since the first game of regionals. The team goes to Lindsey’s grandma’s house on Tuesdays, and she makes us lunch. I’m very superstitious.

Lindsey Aden, senior defensive specialist, No. 16
The best part of this season … has been how close we’ve grown as a team and as friends. We aren’t just friends because of volleyball and being around one another isn’t a chore. We find ourselves going to lunch together, sitting around one another at school and spending time together outside of volleyball because of how close volleyball has made us.

Being a part of such a successful program … raises our expectations for ourselves and our team. It increases the fun, yet competitive nature of our team because we’re always wanting to challenge each other on and off the court.

Coach Abby McDonald … really helps us all acknowledge our potential and the talent we have around us. She knows how well we can play, and she doesn’t accept a lower performance or poor practice from any of us. Coach is always talking to us and giving us feedback on how to improve.

Making it to state with this team … is bittersweet because this is what we’ve all been working for, but we know we’ll be done playing with one another once it’s over. We’re glad our season hasn’t ended yet, but we know once this weekend’s over, then our season’s done. We’re just trying to really soak up every second we have left.

One superstition I have is … I pray for the upcoming game and the events around us with our team circled up around each other before every game. I usually listen to music to get my mind ready for a game, and I drink Body Armour before each game.

Jenna Albrecht, senior middle blocker, No. 27
The best part of this season … is growing and bonding with each other. I have never been so close with a group of girls. We all are friends, and it’s so nice.

Being a part of such a successful program … feels great. I am so proud to be part of the team. However, it can be stressful at times. Being so successful, people expect a lot out of us. It’s hard sometimes, but we can usually get the job done.

Coach Abby McDonald … is a great coach and always looking out for her players’ best intentions. While playing with her is great, we also get to see the teacher/mom side of her. She treats us like family.

Making it to state with this team … is great because there’s no other group I would want to live this dream with. Some of us played together in the 2016 eighth-grade state championship. Since that day, it has been our goal to do it in high school when we joined PVO and the other grades. We are all best friends.

One superstition I have is … we play, ‘Get Silly,’ to get hyped for the game. We wear the same outfit for every postseason game, and before the match starts, we give high fives and handshakes.

Anna Wentzloff, senior outside hitter, No. 35
The best part of this season … has been enjoying our last season as senior and knowing we are bringing home a trophy.

Being a part of such a successful program … is awesome to be a part of a program with wonderful coaches and talented teammates.

Coach Abby McDonald … is truly a blessing to play for. She cares about each of us on and off the court.

Making it to state with this team … is amazing because they are my family. I can’t wait to make these memories.

One superstition I have is … every gameday, the team wears the same outfit.

Emily Fisher, junior outside hitter, No. 15
The best part of this season … is becoming closer with the other girls and not just being a team, but a family.

Being a part of such a successful program … is great. We’re all able to build each other up and make each other better.

Coach Abby McDonald … is a lot of fun. She is always pushing us to be better, and she motivates us for every game.

Making it to state with this team … unreal. I still can’t comprehend it. We worked hard for this, though, so we’re all excited and ready.

One superstition I have is … we always have a team lunch at Lindsey’s grandma’s house once a week.

Alex Frerichs, junior outside hitter, No. 17
The best part of this season … has been the team chemistry. I made a lot of new friendships on this team than others.

Being a part of such a successful program … takes a lot of hard work, but in the end, it all pays off.

Coach Abby McDonald … has given me more confidence in myself. No matter how hard the practice got, there were always funny moments, whether it was at the beginning or end of practice.

Making it to state with this team … is like winning the lottery. I have never played with a better group of girls, and I know I will miss this team.

One superstition I have is … I always wear the same hair tie each postseason game. I also wore the same outfit to school on all of the postseason gamedays.

Hannah Umbarger, junior setter, No. 18
The best part of this season … was getting closer to a lot of the seniors. It’s awesome to be in practice with all the girls because they are all so good. They definitely deserve to go to state.

Being a part of such a successful program … is a lot of pressure to do your best. When everyone around you is good, you have to fight for your position. It’s stressful, but a great way to get better. Practicing with good players all the time makes me better, and I’m lucky to practice with them.

Coach Abby McDonald … makes you want to win. It’s fun. She puts a lot of time toward the program and wants the team to reach their goals. Not only does the team deserve to go to state, but coach does, too.

Making it to state with this team … is super exciting because they have the skill to do very well. They’ve worked hard at practice and are all very talented. I think they can go all the way.

One superstition I have is … I always have to hold Katelyn’s hand when we circle up. We sit in the same seats on the bus and same seats on the bench. The higher Payton’s ponytail, the better she plays. We pray before games and have the same warm-up partners, too.

Payton Vallee, junior outside hitter, No. 24
The best part of this season … hasn’t even happened yet. I know that no matter how this weekend ends, spending this time with my team and playing with each other in Redbird will be the best memory.

Being a part of such a successful program … has been great. We have all worked to push each other to our full potential.

Coach Abby McDonald … has been a great role model and has coached me to be the best I can be.

Making it to state with this team … makes me feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity to go to state with this group of girls. We aren’t only teammates, but we are all really good friends off the court as well.

One superstition I have is … during the postseason we all wore the same outfit every day we had a game. During the regular season, Katelyn Berry and I ate a popcorn during every JV game.

Kennedi Burnett, sophomore outside hitter, No. 7
The best part of this season … is every aspect. From summer to now reaching a goal of making it to state. We have built so many new friendships and memories as a team.

Being a part of such a successful program … helps continue the success because we know that the expectations from previous seasons are high. I love the heart and drive players have given now and in previous years.

Coach Abby McDonald … pushes us to do our best, no matter the situation. Playing for coach is a fun, focused atmosphere.

Making it to state with this team … is amazing. We really have played and worked as a team. We respect each other’s play, build each other up, work hard and push through together.

One superstition I have is … we pray before every game. After every game, our team gets together and screams our slogan of, ‘Right here, right now.’

Shayne Immke, freshman outside hitter, No. 13
The best part of this season … was super-sectionals because we beat Chicago Christian on its home court.

Being a part of such a successful program … is an amazing experience. Honestly, I feel like we don’t realize how good we are.

Coach Abby McDonald … is a great coach. It’s such an honor to be able to play for her. She pushes us to be the best players we can be.

Making it to state with this team … is exciting. This team has worked hard all season, and to see our goal in the end of the season is so rewarding. This group of girls has taught me a lot, and it will be a year I won’t forget.

One superstition I have is … wearing the same clothes on gameday, and we pray before each game.

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