Conant delivers inspired performance in honor of Scholten
Junior DeeDee Durr's ace not only ended Conant's 25-18, 26-24 victory over Schaumburg, it ended a very special match for Cougars girls volleyball coach Peggy Scholten.
But it didn't end Scholten's night.
She was headed to Fox & Hounds, where all the Mid-Suburban League coaches were paying tribute to Scholten's 37-year Hall of Fame coaching career.
Before the match, Scholten was honored and presented with a plaque, stating that the annual Early Bird Invite will be renamed the Peggy Scholten Invite.
Scholten is retiring from teaching (physical education) and coaching at the end of the school year.
She was unaware of her big night until Tuesday.
"Talk about humbling," she said. "That was crazy."
Scholten wasn't exactly crazy about the idea when she figured it out Tuesday afternoon upon seeing the gymnasium dedicated with posters and pictures of her and former teams.
"She was afraid it would take away from our focus," said Cougars senior standout Jenn Donnell, whose focus was brilliant as she put down match-high 9 kills with 16 digs. "But it just motivated us. We wanted to win for her and for us. It was just amazing.
"Oh my God. When it was over, I almost cried. I was so happy we won for her. Not only had we not defeated Schaumburg in my four years but we did it in two sets. We just had such great enthusiasm."
Back-to-back kills by Daniele Sortino and Durr gave the Cougars the win in Game 1.
Conant (10-12, 3-4) built a 18-10 lead in Game 2 before the Saxons charged back and eventually tied it 23 and 24. But Durr took a set from Sarah Mazurek and put a kill off the block for a 25-24 lead before serving the match winner.
"It was quite a performance from my girls," Scholten said. "What an incredible match they put together. I kept telling them how talented they are. But sustaining a consistent effort had been one of challenges and they overcame it."
Mazurek (7 assists) and Elisa Ambrose set the offense which also received 3 kills apiece from Sortino and Alyssa Wachal and one from Sarah Manczko.
Schaumburg (12-8, 4-3) was led on attack by Kiana Lewis (8 kills), Hannah Moore (6) and Oyinkan Akinola (3).
The Saxons had defeated Conant in three 2-point games two weeks ago.
Schaumburg coach Jeanette Pancratz, who presented a MSL-logo decorated quilt to Scholten at the postgame function, also honored Scholten prior to the team's first meetings.
Scholten and Pancratz have a combined 1,390 wins and 67 years of head coaching experience.
Even Tuesday's match referee — Joanie Fesl — is a veteran in MSL circles, having officiated in the league since 1985.
Scholten was a student teacher at Maine South when Fesl was playing at the Park Ridge school.
"Mrs. Scholten just always has the desire to push forward and get best out of your potential," Donnell said. "She always pushes us to be our best and that's why she has stayed a Cougar so long and she will always be a Cougar."
Many past Cougars were on hand to surprise their former coach, including all the seniors from Scholten's 1998 MSL South championship team.
The setter from that team, Kristy Steffens, made the 3˝-hour drive from Chatham with her 3-month-old boy.
"We love her," Steffens said about her former coach, who won her 658th match on Tuesday.
Believe it or not, Steffen's baby was not the youngest spectator in the stands.
That honor went to 2-week-old Mac Monahan, whose mother Katie is Scholten's oldest daughter, a teacher at Glenbrook South High school where her husband Tim is the boys volleyball head coach.
Katie's sisters Kim and Carly were also in the Conant gym along with their brother Scott and father Steve, who is also a Hall of Famer (Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, as an official).
Katie, Carly and Kim all played volleyball for Elk Grove and competed against their mother's team while in high school.
Carly made the longest trip, coming from her home in Las Vegas where she serves as the director of operations for the largest animal shelter in the country (The Animal Foundation).
Suffice to say, Peggy had plenty of fans and friends on hand.
Prior to the match, Janet Kasinger and Steve Peter were guest speakers. Scholten coached both in high school and started their coaching careers at Conant.
They shared the microphone in describing their mentor's legacy to Conant High School.
"We know we could never fill her shoes completely," said Kasinger, who organized the celebration. "But it makes us proud to know that she has taught us the ropes well enough to entrust us with a program she has built."
A program that has had only one coach for its entire 37 years.
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