Photo by Jeff Vorva
St. Laurence’s Colleen Schmit is introduced to the crowd. She pounded down the first two kills in program history.
And with the first thwack of the volleyball courtesy of junior varsity server Vicky Ceballos at around 5 p.m. Monday, history was made in the St. Laurence gym.
It was the first time in the 56-year history of the school that the school hosted an Illinois High School Association girls. Girls were admitted to the school this year and the volleyball team made its debut against Providence Catholic.
The games didn’t go the Burbank school’s way, with the varsity losing 25-11, 25-17 and the JV squad losing 25-8, 25-14. But this night was all about a new chapter in the history of the school as an estimated crowd of 500 fans came to witness the first girls event in the gym.
It was hot and noisy. There was a section with mostly girls screaming wildly and next to them was a boys section where a lot of guys in black t-shirts were also making a racket.
“If I have kids, I’ll bring them back here and tell them that this is where I started and I helped start the team,” said junior Colleen Schmit, who racked up the first two kills in the program’s history.
Coach Ellen Yopchick said that 25 of the 26 junior varsity/varsity players came from next door at Queen of Peace.
In January, Queen of Peace made a shocking announcement it was closing and a few months later, St. Laurence officials pulled the trigger on allowing girls to enroll at their school. The first day of school was Wednesday but Monday night was fun time.
“They’ve been on a rollercoaster,” Yopchick said. “But I think the moment each one of them said ‘hey, I want to be a Viking,’ it stopped. They chose this school. They wanted to be a part of it. They had tons of other options. When they walk in the doors, they are wearing black and gold and they are all about St. Laurence.’’
“I feel pretty comfortable here,” Schmit said. “I’m excited. Everything feels pretty good.’’
Yopchick, an Evergreen Park native and Mother McAuley graduate, said these players will remember this night --- and season – for a long time.
“Just showing up tonight and being a part of this was history,” Yopchick said “To play in front of a home crowd like this – you couldn’t ask for anything more. They are young right now and they get it a little bit. They now know how special this place is. They are a part of it. They can look back when they are older about this night. They can come back 10 years from now and say ‘we’re the team that started it all and laid the foundation.
“I think it’s something to be proud of.’’
The special feelings of the first night will give way to the team wanting to win.
“We have work to do but I like how we’re starting,” Schmit said. “We’re at the entry-level but we’re going to get better.’’