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It was the first time the ETHS girls volleyball team advanced to the final four and from the looks of things, it will not be the last. The program shows great potential after a fantastic season. The Kits ended their breakthrough season finishing in fourth place in the class 4A tournament with a record of 30-10.
Although they came into State Finals at Redbird Arena in Normal with an array of confidence after huge wins over New Trier and Fremd in the Super-Sectional, they lost two matches in the finals. Coach Pam MacPherson knew her team under-performed on the biggest stage of all. “
Their first loss of the weekend came against St. Charles East (26-24, 25-20). In that game Evanston took a 20-15 lead in set one, but failed to match up to the Saints’ fast attack, eventually losing the set by 2. Evanston did not lead or come back in the second and deciding set.
“I think nerves got to us, and I think we beat ourselves,” said Coach MacPherson. “We made some critical errors and let them back into the game. Give a good team like that some leeway, show some weakness, and that’s what happens.”
St. Charles’s Haley Streich pounded down 11 kills, many of them on “slide” plays where the Wildkits were not able to put up an effective block. “We practiced against that slide, but in the heat of the moment our initial reaction was that we were a little hesitant,” said MacPherson. St. Charles East went on to win the championship the next day, beating Benet Academy in three sets.
The following day, the Kits went on to the third-place game against Mother McAuley, a team that has gone downstate more than any other team in the tournament. Evanston did not get as many breaks early on as they did against St. Charles East, as the Mighty Macs did not allow the Kits to do what they do best — blocking or killing the ball.
“We did it to ourselves on our own side of the net, and I think that comes with the territory of being here for the first time. But we’ll be more comfortable when we come back here again,” said Coach MacPherson. “We had a better season than anyone ever thought we could have. From the start of the year our practice T-shirts said ‘The Tradition Starts Now’ and this is the team that put us on the map.”
Almost every Evanston spectator who saw the girls play this season knew how good they were from top to bottom, especially after watching the juniors and sophomores. One of the stars of the team, junior Ali Gossen, became a captain after Coach MacPherson saw her awesome potential. Gossen led the team in kills for the season and is already getting serious Division I looks. She shares the same enthusiasm and expectations for next season.
“Even though we didn’t play our best down here, the best thing about the season was the way we came together as a team,” said Gossen. “We’ll come back here strong next year.”
Gossen had a team-high ten kills in Friday’s semifinal loss to St. Charles East. In the game against the Mighty Macs the next day, two of her kill attempts were ruled out of bounds as McAuley, already leading 14-12, pulled away to a 19-12 advantage. Evanston never got closer than 6 points the rest of the game against an almost flawless McAuley team.
The future of the program is bright and many people know that this trip to Normal is not going to be a one-time deal. This season shows what Coach MacPherson can do with so much young talent. Congratulations to Coach MacPherson and the entire team for an incredible season.