Champaign Centennial volleyball is a name that seems to have a lot of people talking this year. One reason may be that they have nine returning seniors, most of which have plans to continue playing after high school. This talented team has beaten some of the best teams in the nation, including Wheaton St. Francis, the number one team in Illinois, along with both the Kentucky state champions, and the Arkansas state champions. There’s no doubt about it–this team is talented. Centennial is even the favorite pick in the Class 3A. They’ve created a name for themselves this year and they definitely have people all across the state talking about them. However, there may be another reason for all the buzz.
After each match, the Centennial girls ask the opponent if they would like to close out the game in a word of prayer. It’s a new thing that the volleyball team is doing this year. “I just like the togetherness of it. It shows people we give thanks through the good times and the bad. It makes us one team, not fourteen players” says senior, Lindsay Rogan. The Centennial volleyball team is trying to connect both teams after the game to remind everyone the reason they play the game that they love. Junior Jordin Hopkins says, “We play for each other and Him. We just want to thank God for blessing us with such great talent.” Even if the opponent does not choose to participate in the prayer, Centennial continues to huddle up and pray with each other.
Centennial volleyball players and coaches believe they are so successful because they don’t play as individuals, yet they play for something bigger than themselves. “It’s something we all come together to do, even the coaches” says senior Lauren Cloyd. The fourteen members on varsity are a close-knit team both on and off the court. Their shared beliefs and faith is just another reason why they get along so well. In today’s society, some may say that praying as a group in a public setting shouldn’t be appropriate. However, Centennial volleyball isn’t trying to offend people, or please people. They say they are simply just being themselves and expressing their beliefs in a different way than usual. “We want people to see us as more than just a good volleyball team. We want people to understand where we come from and why we actually play the game” states Cloyd. Assistant varsity coach, Alan Newman says, “Though our team believes volleyball is important, as seen by the team’s hard work each day, by coming together in prayer, they acknowledge that at the end of the day volleyball is just a game. The circle is a tribute to their sportsmanship, their commitment to each other and their faith.”
As Centennial volleyball enters its last few weeks in regular season before they begin Regionals, they are continuing to work hard. The team pushes themselves everyday to get better. They say they are going to continue to close out each match in a word of prayer to give thanks for the health and talents they were given to play the game. As well as hoping they will be blessed with an opportunity to make it far in post season.