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Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: With a horse in the race, this high school season was special

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

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Photo by Jeff Vorva 

T.J. Vorva holds up the fourth-place trophy that Sandburg's volleyball team won on June 6.

 

The 2014-15 high school sports season officially ended in our area on Saturday, with Marist’s softball team bringing back a state championship trophy back to the Chicago school.

Also, a handful of Orland Park kids who play for Providence brought a first-place trophy in baseball to New Lenox.

For me, it was one of the most emotional seasons I ever encountered. At times, I was at the top of the world. Other times I felt like I was in a sewer in Hell.

The first sporting event I ever covered as a professional reporter was in November, 1977 and it was a boys basketball game between Lemont and Bolingbrook. I was a senior in high school.

Since then, I’ve been to thousands of high school, college and professional events as a reporter. I’ve covered kids and their kids and possibly their kids’ kids. I’ve always maintained a reporter’s detachment. I never rooted for anything but a good story.

This year – and the last couple of weeks – has been surreal.

My son, T.J. was a key cog on Sandburg’s boys volleyball team. Now I am at these games as a parent, not as a reporter.

After decades of covering others kids in a multitude of sports, it was a little shock to my system to see T.J. and my daughter, Lauren, the first time they donned high school basketball or volleyball uniforms for their first game.

I don’t care if your kid is a star or a benchwarmer, the accomplishment of making even a freshman team is still rare and not to be taken lightly. There are thousands of kids who go to some of our area’s bigger schools and a tiny percentage who make it on a high school team.

It’s even rarer to be on a state power.

I’m not going to take you on a trip through Sandburg’s volleyball season but after an 8-4 start, the Eagles looked like a good, but not great team. Then they piled up a 28-match winning streak that took us frazzled parents to the state’s final four.

As a writer and photographer, I’ve always enjoyed covering state tournaments.

The drama.

The triumphs.

The disappointments.

It’s all good stuff. Emotions run high and even for a detached writer, I get pumped up.

I still get goosebumps when I shoot photos of a state football championship celebration when all these big macho guys are screaming and hollering and jumping up and down like little school girls.

And now, there is my kid on the floor for a state tournament game.

The sportswriter in me doesn’t allow me to yell and scream too much during these game. I try to stay cool.

But inside, I am dying after every error and ready to have my head explode after every kill or block. My wife, Maggie said the stress was getting to her so much, she joked about it feeling like having a heart attack, especially in the last four or five matches.

Friends and family came to Hoffman Estates to watch the action – some of whom may have not been to a volleyball match in a while – if ever. We hoped hard that he would play well in front of them.

This postseason was the weirdest and most pressure-filled because we had a horse in the race.

During sectional play, the fellas beat Eisenhower in a wild first match at the Shepard Sectional and then breathed a sigh of relief as I broke out the camera to cover another fun battle between Marist and Brother Rice.

“Now I’ve gone from (deleted) father back to unbiased reporter,” I told a couple of my peers. “The pressure is off.”

The volleyball season ended with a fourth-place finish on June 6 and I figured that would be the end of that. It’s over.

But three days later, the Marist softball team won a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over Downers Grove South at the Benedictine University Class 4A Supersectional and I was caught in the middle of the mob-scene celebration.

More goose bumps.

Yeah, the players went nuts and that was to be expected.

But after the wild celebration and posing for photos was over, I watched the Marist parents as they excitedly talked about the game and their travel plans for the state tournament. For them, all was right in the world.  

I knew how they felt.

So after what has turned out to be an unusual sports season for me, I am never going to be able to cover a high school postseason event without a little smile.