For a girl who may be the best setter in Illinois, Rachel Minarick sure can hit.
Joliet Catholic simply had no answer for Waubonsie Valley's Michigan State-bound senior Monday. Minarick threw down 13 kills to go with her 8 assists and 3 blocks, the No. 4 Warriors riding it to an impressive 25-14, 25-17 win in Aurora.
"And she hardly trains at hitting," marveled Waubonsie coach Kristen Stuart. "She's just such an athlete. There were a couple balls there she hit where she was off-balance. She just finds a way."
It was a significant win for Waubonsie (8-1), coming on Stuart's 32nd birthday. In her seventh year it's Stuart's first win over perennial power Joliet Catholic (7-2).
"It's about time," Stuart said. "Best birthday present."
Waubonsie's girls roamed the hallways Monday to get plenty of crowd support out for the big match. In a sweltering hot Warriors gym, they took that energy to the court and led throughout.
"Victory is sweet. It was great to have a lot of people come out," Minarick said. "They've always been a great program so this is a great win for us."
Leading 16-13 in the first game, Waubonsie was sparked by an improbable point. Minarick hustled wide of the net to save a sure JCA kill, and Brooke Burling put down a kill for the Warriors. It started a 6-0 run on Stephanie Tang's serve, Tang serving an ace and sophomore right side Taylor Dunwell a kill.
"We got going," said Burling, a sophomore with 6 kills and 6 digs, "and we didn't stop."
A pair of Minarick kills started a 4-0 Waubonsie surge to start Game 2. At 9-4 Minarick threw a kill from the middle straight down and it was all but over after that. JCA, which had just two seniors on the floor, struggled to mount any sort of block against Minarick.
"She's an awesome player and we knew that going in. We haven't seen a hitter like that this season," JCA coach Chris Scheibe said. "She's the one who makes it all happen from them, when she's in front row and when she's setting."
Minarick's kill numbers were awful impressive when you consider she's only hitting on three rotations of front row.
She channeled her setter's mentality in sharing the credit.
"You can't be a good hitter without good sets," she said. "Hitting, it's very satisfying."
Dunwell had 7 kills and Katie Campbell 5 kills and 5 blocks for the Warriors, who had contributions throughout.
It is easy to see where it all flows from.
"Rachel, she's such a great leader and role model. She's always teaching out there on the floor," Stuart said. "She's just the total package."
It was Waubonsie's fourth straight win since a disappointing loss to York in the Benet Invite semifinals, a match in which the Warriors led in both games.
Stuart was surprised at the one-sided nature of the match but is also well aware what this group is capable of.
"This is the year where we can have these kinds of wins," Stuart said. "We have a very athletic team, and Rachel is obviously a difference maker. When we're playing like that I'm not surprised we won."
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