Lutheran returns home with hardware after historic playoff run

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) It was a playoff run many will soon not forget. Lutheran girls volleyball made school history by being the first team in program history to play at Redbird Arena, and they have the hardware to prove it.

"When the cops started escorting us, we thought we were getting pulled over," said explained senior Katie Wilhelmi. "So just the fact that we have so many supporters and fans, it just means so much to us."

Lutheran returned to a heroes welcome Saturday night, after bringing home the school's first state trophy in girls volleyball. The Crusaders finished fourth in Class 2A, capping off a historic run that saw the team win its first sectional and super-sectional in the process.

"It meant so much. It was so much fun playing with my team," said Wilhelmi. "Especially since I got to play my senior year at state with my little sister, it just meant so much to me."

The Lady Saders played from behind most of the postseason, dropping the first set in four of their last five matches. But no matter how bumpy the ride, the seniors led the way.

"At the end of the day, we win and we lose as a team," said Kayla Giardono. "The most important part of being on a team, is to remember that it is in fact a team. It's a huge, huge deal to always bring each other up. Just support each other no matter what the outcome is, try to have a positive mindset. No matter what happens."

Wilhelmi, Giardono and Katie Angel, three seniors that laid the foundation for future success.

"I think it's really cool because we do have a lot of new people," said Angel. "Like our coach, this is only her second year. We have a lot of young players on our team. Our (athletic director), obviously his first year. So it's just really cool that we can do that for them and get them started out on a right note."

And while the outcome was not exactly what the team had in mind, the memories will last forever.

"I think it's just been a really big, growing year for the underclassmen," said head coach Jordan Haverly. "I think it's been a really big honor for these seniors and juniors, just to be able to have this experience overall."