BLOOMINGTON — Even a full 24 hours after winning the Class 2A state volleyball championship tournament Saturday afternoon, Bloomington Central Catholic senior Carli Nafziger was still trying to come to terms with what she and her teammates had accomplished.
“I’m mind-blown,” she said, following a ceremony at the school where the team was honored. “I’m just so happy.”
On Saturday, the Saints beat previously unbeaten Orion 25-20 and 25-21 in the state finals at Redbird Arena in Normal to win the school’s first state volleyball title.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” she said. “I just never thought as a senior we were going to win. It’s not that I didn’t believe in us, because I did. It’s just so amazing to actually do it.”
The celebration was one of two recognition ceremonies for local volleyball teams held Sunday. The Normal Community High School squad placed fourth in the Class 4A finals, after losing to Cary-Grove in the third-place match. A year ago, the team placed third.
“Surreal is definitely the word to describe it,” said NCHS senior Kaylee Allensworth.
“We didn’t know if we were capable,” said classmate Ginny Gerig. “Then we started playing better as a team.”
The trophies won Saturday were each donated to their respective schools.
“We’ve had one heck of a run,” said Central Catholic Coach J.R. Banister. “We are really going to miss our seniors.”
That includes senior setter Claire Boe, who injured her knee halfway through the season, but still added support through Saturday’s championship game.
“I’m super proud of my team and it’s nice to be a part of such a great environment,” she said. “I was hurt but they were so supportive and still made me feel like I was an important part of this team.”
Like Nafziger, senior Sydney Shanks described winning a state championship as a “mind-blowing experience.”
“We knew we could make it to state, but getting there was only half of the battle,” she said. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I think it will take a couple of weeks before we can really appreciate the fact that we won a state championship.”
The Saints finished the season with 35-5 record and a 26-match winning streak.
“They are a special group of kids,” Banister said. “They get along both on and off the court. They came in and worked hard. This was their goal at the beginning of the year. We set goals throughout the year and when we got to the postseason, they felt they could do it. I am proud of the way they fought and the way they held their composure.”