In a place where red and white are usually the colors of choice at Illinois State, a few sections of Redbird Arena turned purple for a few hours on Friday afternoon.
An estimated turnout of more than 500 Mascoutah Indians fans which made the three hour trek north to watch their favorite volleyball team compete at the Class 3A State Tournament for the first time. Those vocal fans made sure the Indians knew they were behind them.
With signs showing support and cheering on every point by their beloved Indians, the Mascoutah faithful still couldn’t quite pull the team through as it fell 25-15, 25-17 to Woodstock Marian in the state semifinals.
“This is a huge accomplishment for these girls to become the first volleyball team in school history to reach the state tournament. But it also means a lot to this school and this community,” Mascoutah Athletic Director Scott Battas said. “The city has really gotten behind this team. I bet we had more than 500 people come up to support these girls today. And I bet we’ll have just as many come up tomorrow (Saturday).”
The Indians were trying to become the first sports team from Mascoutah High School to win a state title since the Indians football team won the Class 3A state crown in 1979. Mascoutah will play LaSalle-Peru in nthe third place match at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Redbird Arena.
Battas said the team will be honored in a ceremony at Mascoutah High School at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The large turnout of their hometown fans wasn’t a surprise to the Indians players who rallied to within two points midway through the second game only to see their comeback efforts fall short.
“I think its great that so many people from home came up to watch us play. But I’m not surprised. It means a lot to them that we’ve come this far,” Indians senior Maddie Nekola said. “This (getting to state) hasn’t happened in a long time and people want to be a part of it and enjoy it with us. Mascoutah’s a small town. We’re all like family.”
Coaching with a heavy heart
Mascoutah coach Todd Gober, whose father William “Ronnie” Gober passed away on Wednesday, was on the sidelines coaching his team on Friday afternoon to help them in their quest to win a state title.
A former coach at Southwestern Illinois College as well as Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Gober has led Mascoutah to a mark of 88-25 in his first three years at the helm.
“It’s been a tough week. I was extremely close to my dad,” Gober said. “He was the man I hope to be.”