Girls volleyball: Fremd tops Palatine; Vikings' Pinley to retire
It was quite a moment in the Palatine gymnasium on Thursday.
Some 23 years after he served as a three-year middle hitter at Palatine High for then coach Curt Pinley, Dan Gavin got to announce to the crowd the retirement of his former mentor before Thursday's Mid-Suburban League West girls volleyball match.
Gavin, now the girls volleyball coach at Palatine, was coaching against Pinley, now the Fremd girls and boys coach.
Gavin even had a photo of a younger Pinley standing in front of the scorer's table prior to the match.
"He looked a lot more like the guy in that picture 23 years ago but he is still the same high-character guy," said Gavin, whose club lost a hard-fought 25-21, 25-22 match to Fremd. "It was an honor to share this kind of night with him. His team is fantastic. We came up a little short but we are certainly proud of our effort, too."
Pinley is wrapping up a 30-year head coaching career (more than 1,000 combined wins as a Fremd girls coach and Palatine and Fremd boys coach).
On Thursday, his Vikings (22-2, 9-1) clinched a West co-championship and play at home against East champ Hersey for the MSL crown next Thursday.
"It's awesome," said Vikes senior setter and Wake Forest recruit Rian Baker (22 assists and 3 kills). "It's pretty cool we could play our last conference match here where Mr. Pinley started the boys' program. It's cool we have this community.
"Honestly, he's such a great person and he relates to all of us. He coaches us as people and he tries to help us with our own ways. He doesn't coach just to coach. He coaches us to be better people. Not just to be better at volleyball."
But the Vikings have certainly been better than many at volleyball, as Pinley has won seven MSL divisional crowns and developed the program into a state power.
"The friendships I've had from volleyball with the Gavins through the years are very special," Pinley said. "To have someone who I coached (Dan Gavin) now coaching at such a high level and his brother, Pete, who is coaching the boys here at Palatine, it is truly a family in the Palatine community. I've just been blessed to be a part of it for a long time. I would argue if I had an all-time boys team, Dan would be on that team."
Pinley is retiring after his long career as an art teacher. He would not rule out coming back one day, perhaps as an assistant.
"I really feel as if I would want to be in the school with the kids if I were the head coach," he said. "That's what I've enjoyed at Fremd. I think to stay on after I've retired wouldn't be right. I'm sure after a year I'll get back in someplace."
Fremd got out to a quick 4-0 lead behind the serve of Maya Szafraniec in Set 1 before the Vikings took the lead for good at 11-10 on a kill by Claudia Wala (6 kills).
An ace by Samantha Gump made it 13-10. Four service points from Rylen Reid (match-high 10 kills) got the Vikes ahead 23-16 before Palatine made a nice rally and got to within 24-21 on 3 service points from Brianna Squeo.
Fremd closed it out on a second attack by Baker.
Another big effort in the second set saw the Pirates tie it at 20-20 with a side out kill by Mia Hanson and an ace from Amanda Jones. But Fremd scored 5 of the next 6 points, getting a kill by Wala, double block from Baker and Kate Pfister and the match winner from Reid.
"Palatine played a fantastic match tonight," Pinley said. "They made us work for every single point. I thought they played phenomenal."
Freshman Victoria Belmonte added 7 kills for Fremd while libero Isabela Segoviano had 6 digs.
"Fremd is one of the best teams in the state and we were there with them point-for-point," Gavin said. "If a couple of balls fall differently, maybe we are playing a third set. If we can get that type of effort and positivity all the time, we can surprise some people in the state tournament.
"I really liked how active our middles (senior Gabby Storelli and junior Lyana Rivera) were. I thought they were a lot more active offensively and they were working really hard defensively, and closing blocks."