Photo by Jeff Vorva
Queen of Peace players celebrate a surprise regional title – its first since 2008.
The final athletic event for soon-to-be-closed Queen of Peace High School took place on Tuesday as the softball team dropped a 11-1 decision to powerhouse Nazareth Academy at the Nazareth Class 3A Sectional in LaGrange Park.
Yes, there were the usual tears and miserable feelings that come with the end of an era like this.
But one thing can’t be taken away from these players.
The Pride faced De La Salle in the Illinois High School Association regional finals at what turned out to be the last sporting event hosted at the Burbank school.
All indications were that the crying and miserable feelings for the Pride was going to take place, oh, somewhere between 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. after it lost to the Meteors.
The Pride entered the game with a 9-20 record and was the fifth seed in the sectional. It had already lost to fourth-seeded De La Salle three times. On April 22, the Meteors beat the Pride, 11-4 and 8-7 in a doubleheader in Chicago. On May 12, De La Salle won 16-6 in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference tournament.
So there was that…
The Pride players also had to play in front of a third coach this season.
Kelly Small was relieved of her duties in early May.
“She’s a good kid, but I had to make some changes,” Pride Athletic Director George Shimko said but wouldn’t give specifics.
Assistant coach Stephanie Ruvalcaba took over the job but had a family event and that caused JV coach Andy Schindel to take over the team on Saturday.
So there was that…
There was also thought of this being their last game hanging over the players’ heads.
But Peace came up with a stunning 10-3 victory over the Meteors and instead of tears and misery, there was an unexpected regional trophy and celebration.
It was the program’s sixth regional title and first since 2008.
And the Pride’s last.
“What a way to go out,” Shimko said.
“This was very memorable and everyone is going to love it,” said Amber Anderson, a senior who transferred to the school after her first school, Mt. Assisi, closed after her freshman year. “The last game here couldn’t have gone any better.’’
The Pride took a 7-0 lead and, despite a few anxious moments at the end of the game, got out of a few jams and won the title.
“This was actually amazing,” Schindel said. “The girls were ready to play softball. We had a really good practice (Friday) and progressively, we continued to get better. I couldn’t be happier with the way they came out and played and the way they decided to take over.”
Losing three games to the Meteors was ancient history when the players stepped on their home field for the last time.
“We didn’t think about the other games at all – we knew we couldn’t come out with any negativity,” Anderson said. “We came out here knowing we could do it.’’
Other members on the 13-member roster this season were Alex Demma, Ashley Lynch, Morgan Fitzgerald, Nicole Rybolt, Genae Grabowski, Jovannna Martinuccci, Autumn Rizzo, Meagan Hecker, Kelly Tomaskovic, Kelly Walinski, Emilia Flores and Ashley Kevin.
“They stepped up to the place literally,” Schindel said. “They had some fun today. They had a lot of fun and I’m very proud of them. I wasn’t necessarily nervous – anxious is a better word. I was prepared and they were prepared and came out and got the win today.
“It’s definitely an experience I will never forget. ’’