ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) Lutheran is not accustomed to playing deep into its sports season, the Crusaders have just two state titles across all athletics. The lady Saders volleyball team looks to add to that limited trophy case later this week when they head to state for the first time.
Lutheran is getting ready for its state semifinal game against St. Teresa out of Decatur. Not only is this the first trip to Redbird Arena, the Crusaders girls volleyball program had never made it past regionals. Lutheran is the first Big Northern team to go to state in the sport since Byron in 2001. The players said they are going to soak it all in.
"It doesn't happen very often," said senior middle blocker Katie Wilhelmi. "This is the first time ever that our school has gotten to go downstate. So just take it all in, enjoy the moments and just stay focused, I guess."
"It's really exciting. We've never done this before, I've never done this before, none of us have every done it. So it's kind of new," said junior outside hitter Lauren Spangler. "It's crazy and I think that when the day comes for us to leave, that it'll finally hit us that we're actually going somewhere big, to play big games. It's a business trip as well as a lot of fun."
While no current players have been to Normal, at least their head coach has.
Jordan Haverly is in her second year as head coach at Lutheran. However, she is no stranger to playing in big games for other area schools. Haverly was part of the Keith Country Day team that went to state in 2007, taking second place. While the nerves of making program history may be there, Haverly has told the girls to go out and play with no regrets.
"My biggest message for them, definitely as a coach, is just if I can go back and do anything that would be my biggest thing," said Haverly.
"It's definitely been the week of just trying to prepare and do the same thing we've been doing all year, and not doing anything crazy of anything different. Just same thing, different week with a little bit different outcome and the games a little farther away."