High school sports dynasties: Girls No. 1, St. Francis volleyball

  • Julie Richards, coach Peg Kopec and Kiley Fister with their back-to-back state championship trophies in 2004.

    Julie Richards, coach Peg Kopec and Kiley Fister with their back-to-back state championship trophies in 2004. Daily Herald File photo

 
 
Updated 6/1/2020 11:14 AM

Editors note: The Daily Herald has been counting down the Top Ten high school sports dynasties since 2000. We conclude today with St. Francis girls volleyball and Montini wrestling.

The first time St. Francis went downstate in girls volleyball, Peg Kopec almost didn't make the trip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"My first one I had an appendicitis rupture right before supersectionals," Kopec said. "Yeah, I hadn't been well. I remember I didn't go down with them for the first game. I only went down with them for the championship.

"And I remember being at home -- and I was not well because it had ruptured -- and I remember saying, this is the only time we'll go downstate. And I think we went down 20-some times."

The numbers are staggering, and they only got better the longer Kopec coached. Since the turn of the century, the Spartans have won eight of their 12 state championships. Kopec won 1,238 matches and 19 state trophies over 40 years and was named 2008 national coach of the year. Kopec's win total places her 11th nationally.

Kopec retired after winning the 2015 state championship, the Spartans' fourth straight.

"Who could ask for anything better than to leave as a state champion? No one," Kopec said. "I was blessed beyond measure. It's hard to hang it up, though. It was a big part of my life. ... I was fortunate to go out on top. And a four-peat, that's ridiculous."

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Ridiculous? Yes. An accident? Definitely not.

"I coached with her for 16 years at St. Francis and she was the master at being able to know the team," said Lisa Ston, Kopec's successor and former assistant. "She was very great at seeing the different talents and levels and being able to pull them together and make them truly a team."

The Spartans remain one of the top programs in the state, if not the nation. They have Elite Eight appearances each of the past two seasons.

"I would like to say the future is bright," Ston said. "I really think that we will continue to have success. The dedication of the players and the work that they put in is really what helps make that what it is."

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The Daily Herald prep sports staff voted on the Top 10 boys and girls high school sports dynasties. Ten points were awarded for a first-place vote, nine for second, etc. The results follow.

Girls1) St. Francis volleyball 83

2) Rosary swimming 69

3) Hinsdale Central tennis 67

4) Naperville North cross country 58

5) Montini basketball 56

6) Benet volleyball 46

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

7) Stevenson gymnastics 24

8) Stevenson water polo 21

9) Geneva basketball 20

10) Barrington softball 15

Honorable mention -- Fremd gymnastics (12), St. Viator soccer (9), St. Charles North soccer (7), Waubonsie Valley soccer (4), Carmel gymnastics (3), Barrington soccer (1).

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