High School Sports

Mascoutah seniors eager to play in state meet

They grew up learning the basics of the sport of volleyball many years ago at Holy Childhood School in Mascoutah.

And as time went on and they matured and their skill levels as players continued, a deep bond developed between Amanda Jung, Paige Weiss, Maddie Nekola and Megan Lindsay both on and of the court as they became a big part of the future of the Mascoutah High School volleyball program.

Now after many disappointments and setbacks, the future has arrived for the 2015 Mascoutah Indians volleyball team.

This weekend at Redbird Arena in Normal, the Indians ‘Core Four’ will play on the same court for the final time as they lead Mascoutah into its first-ever appearance at the Class 3A State Volleyball Tournament.

Talk about going out on a high note.

“This what we’ve talked about for the last three years. To be able to play in the state tournament has been our goal and we’ve worked so very hard to get here,” Jung said after practice on Wednesday. “The goal now is to win it. If we play like we can and have we’ve got the same chance as the other three schools.”

The Indians (32-7) will take on Woodstock Marian (37-3) in the first of two Class 3A semifinals beginning at 4 p.m. Joliet Catholic (25-12) will take on LaSalle-Peru (28-10) at 5:30 p.m. with the two winners meeting for the state title on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Mascoutah will leave for Normal on Thursday morning and will have a workout at Redbird Arena later in the day. Assistant coach Liz Thoel conducted the Indians final home practice on Wednesday do to the fact that head coach Todd Gober’s father, William ‘Ronnie’ Gober, passed away earlier in the day.

Gober responded via text late Wednesday afternoon that he will be in Normal on Friday coaching his team.

Lindsay said that with their coach mourning the death of his father, the team will be even more motivated.

“It’s tough. Coach Gober has done so much for us and pushed us to limits that we didn’t think we could reach. We know he’s hurting a lot right now although he won’t show it because he’s so strong,” Lindsay said. “I think that out of pure respect for him that we owe it to him to go out and push as hard as we can. We were going to give it our all anyway.’’

Motivation for its volleyball team is all over Mascoutah this week. Posters with the name of every player line the gate heading into the school’s parking lot. And their are messages of good luck on store windows and in posted on signs front yards throughout the community.

Appearing in the state finals for the first time, Mascoutah is proud of its volleyball team and its showing it.

“Oh my gosh, we’re just so excited. The school, the adminstration, the teachers, the community ... we’re just so proud of these girls and how they’ve played. And we’re not done yet,” Thoel said. “Our parents group has done a great job of building this up for the girls and we’re ready to go.

“I’m sure the other three teams at the state tournament don’t know anything about us and some of them have no idea where Mascoutah is. But we’re ready to show them what we’re all about. Boy, are we ever ready to show them.”

And leading the way will be the four seniors. Lindsay, headed to Murray State University and Jung, a Southern Indiana University recruit, lead a deep and talented Indians attack. Both standing an even 6-feet tall, Jung (197 kills) and Lindsay (272 kills) have also combined for 540 digs. But they are just part of the story for Mascoutah’s offense which has five players with over 100 kills and six players with over 100 digs.

Weiss, a 5-10 rightside hitter has also been a key contributor with 65 kills and 86 digs. Then there is Nekola. One of the emotional leaders of the Indians and one of the top setters in the metro-east, the highly-competitive 5-6 Nekola had a front tooth knocked out earlier this year.

That missing tooth and spirit and fire that Nekola plays with are the true trademarks of the Indians storybook season. And as Thoel said, they’re not done yet.

“It came out early in the season and its not back in yet,” Thoel said, laughing when asked about Nekola’s missing front tooth. “Maddie is our glue. She holds us together and is just a true leader on this team.”

As is Lindsay whose last name is familiar with those who follow Mascoutah athletics. Her dad Chris Lindsay was an exceptional athlete who later went on to be the head football coach at Mascoutah and is still the Indians head wrestling coach.

Older brother Zach was an exceptional football and baseball player who is currently playing baseball at the University of Missouri at St. Louis while other family members Ron Lindsay and Toby Lindsay also were very good athletes.

“My grandpa was also a coach and a good athlete so yes athletics have always been a big part of the Lindsay family,” Lindsay said. “To say we’re a little competitive is true. A family whiffle ball game can sometimes become a little heated.

“This season is something we’ve worked for and it means a great deal. We’ve had success in the past. Weve gotten to the sectional championship and we’ve gotten to the sectional semiifnals another time. But when we would lose, we would hear, you’ve always got next year.’ But there are no more next years now and we’ve worked hard to get to this point. I’m very proud of my teammates. The goal is to win it this weekend and yes, we’ll be disappointed if we don’t.”

Jung knows the Indians will walk into Redbird Arena on Friday as perhaps an underdog. The outgoing Indians senior has seen and played against many of the top players in the Chicago area during club volleyball. But she also knows the Indians can compete.

“The Chicago teams play all year long and so do we, but some of those teams are insane. They are crazy,” Jung said. “They keep saying that they are here for a reason but we are too. I think we’ll be able to compete with them very well.

“What am I going to miss about this team? The other players. The three other seniors are my best friends and it’s really emotional because we’re not going to be playing or seeing each other as much any more. It’s been a great four years and we’re not done yet.”

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean

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