Although the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls volleyball team’s bid for a state title fell three wins short, the Bulldogs had another superb season under coach Dan Bonarigo. Niles West outlasted RBHS 25-22, 22-25, 31-29 in an epic supersectional match last week.
Prior to their disappointing loss to the Wolves, RBHS seniors Dana Rettke and Gia Cinkay propelled the second-seeded Bulldogs to a 25-19, 19-25, 25-18 upset of top-seeded Glenbard West at the Class 4A Addison Trail Sectional final.
“Honestly, it’s crazy,” said Rettke, who blasted 25 kills against Glenbard West. “This team has by far exceeded my expectations of this season.
“When’s the last time we won, 1988? That’s unbelievable.
“We just played so hard. ‘Bon’ has been telling us all season that we’ve got to get on the floor and make those effort plays, and we did that today. We played lights out. It was great.”
‘Bon’ is RBHS coach Dan Bonarigo, whose emphasis on defense actually gives the Wisconsin-bound Rettke more opportunities for kills.
“We just keep talking about committing all to defense and just going after everything and getting on the floor,” Bonarigo said. “That really makes a difference for us because Dana can put a lot of balls away, but if we don’t return what they’re putting over, we’re not going to get as many kills or as many opportunities.
“The defense is what gave us a chance today and it just gives Dana and (Cinkay) that many more swings.”
While Glenbard West (28-11) had graduated most of the top hitters from their 2015 team that finished second in the state, the Hilltoppers were still a formidable opponent, with great defense and a diversified attack.
“That was the speech (the players) got all week; (Glenbard) was an experienced team,” Bonarigo said. “They know how to win.
“It doesn’t matter how many kids were on the floor last year, they expect to win. So that’s a huge win for our program.”
The Bulldogs (32-8) got it done in impressive fashion, closing out a tight opening game on kills from Rettke and Cinkay and a Glenbard West error.
RBHS vaulted out to a 6-1 lead on Rettke’s serve in Game 2, but the Hilltoppers roared back to tie the match on the strength of Ellory Graff, Amanda Peterson and Ella Ridinger, who combined for 24 kills.
Glenbard West led 7-6 in Game 3 when sophomore setter Leah Rettke fed her sister three consecutive plays for kills and the Bulldogs never trailed again.
“We had a bit of a down in Game 2, which was kind of frustrating,” Dana Rettke said. “We weren’t making those hustle plays and we were just being passive.”
The younger Rettke’s rise turned the tide.
“I think so,” Dana Rettke said. “It kind of reassured us that we’ll get those big passes, we’ll get those good sets and good hits. I was so proud of Leah.”
So was Bonarigo.
“I think (that was the moment) when Leah just realized that was what it was going to take to win and it didn’t matter that they knew that Dana was going to get the ball every time,” Bonarigo said. “They had to stop her and they weren’t stopping her.”
Indeed, Dana Rettke had nine of her kills down the stretch, while Cinkay spiked two of her 10 kills.
Another key point came after the Hilltoppers had used a 4-0 run to tie Game 3 at 17-17. The Bulldogs took the lead on a Glenbard West service error and then Rettke followed with three consecutive kills, two off assists from her sister and one off a set from libero Maya Diaz.
“Give (credit) to Glenbard West because they have an amazing defense, too,” Dana Rettke said. “But in the third game when it was 17-17, we really turned it on. Everyone contributed and picked it up and we did it.”
The Bulldogs closed with an 8-1 run. Diaz, who had 14 digs, served the last two points, the first an ace and the second a block by Dana Rettke.
“(Playing with Dana) is great,” Cinkay said. “It’s very comforting knowing that we can always give someone the ball that will 99 percent of the time get something done with it.
“At the same time, obviously she is the center of attention, but I can’t stress enough how much of a team effort this is. Every single person is important.”
Leah Rettke finished with 14 assists and six digs, while senior setter Maria Gonzales had 18 assists and 10 digs against Glenbard West. Cinkay added 11 digs and junior Claire Swiatek three kills to go with 10 service points and eight digs.
“I was beyond pumped up,” Cinkay said. “I played as hard as I possibly could and every single person on this team contributes.
“It just happens to be those big swings that get the momentum going, which is what I think was important in my game play. But everybody contributed as hard as they could and it was an unbelievable game and experience.”