The Riverside-Brookfield High School girls volleyball team’s splendid season came to a close with a 25-23, 25-21 loss against host Whitney Young in a Class 4A regional final.
Despite the loss which prevented the Bulldogs from returning home to compete in their own sectional, the team finished 26-10, won the Metro Suburban Conference West Division title, and produced several strong showings at tournaments.
Securing a win against the Dolphins on their home floor proved more difficult.
In the first game, RBHS right side hitter Gia Cinkay had a kill to cap off a 4-0 spurt by the Bulldogs which drew them within 16-13. Junior outside hitter Dana Rettke pulled RBHS within 24-23 on an ace, but Whitney Young won the final point of the opening game to jump ahead in the match.
“We did really well in serving and blocking,” Rettke said. “We were up against big blocks, so it was pretty hard to get around those. We gave it our all out there and we couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Rettke finished with 11 kills, five digs, three aces and two blocks, while Cinkay had three kills, three blocks and a dig. Senior libero Selene Anaya tallied a team-high six digs.
In Game 2, the Bulldogs trailed 16-7 before reeling off seven points to tie the score at 16-16. Similar to the first game, the match remained tight until the end. Rettke had a kill to put RBHS within striking distance at 23-21. The Dolphins won the last two points, however, to claim their own regional and advance to the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional.
“Our team hustled as much as we could because we knew this might be our last time on the court together,” Cinkay said. “We were really unified. We made sure to pick stuff up from the floor and get to every single block. Those were the important things that kept us in it the whole time.”
Although they will lose four seniors in Anaya, outside hitter Nerija Cuplinskas, setter Olivia Gyssler, and middle hitter Nicole LaBelle, the Bulldogs will return an excellent group of players including Rettke (committed to Wisconsin), Cinkay, setter/right side hitter Michelle Cejka, middle hitter Vasara Kulbis, libero Maya Diaz, setter Maria Gonzales, middle/right side hitter Maggie Shereck and outside hitter Claire Swiatek
“Our chemistry was awesome this season,” Rettke said. “We really get along so well. I’m going to miss the seniors so much; they really made my year this year. We’re all really close and we played really well together.”
Cinkay added: “We all had the mindset that if we all stayed together and played with as much heart as we can, then there’s nobody that we could beat. We all had to stay unified to keep ourselves in it in tough games like this one, and we did a really good job of that all year.”
Bonarigo cherished this season as much as the players.
“This was a phenomenal group for me,” he said. “The thing that I really look at is the quality of the character and personality of the kids. This was a very good volleyball team but an even better group of kids.”