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Rakers Helped Central Marion Jell

by Maureen Lynch
McHenry County Sports, Thursday 12/18/08

At the start of the season, Deb Rakers wasn't taking any chances on whether this talented and skilled group of Marian Central volleyball players would work together.

The 10-year Hurricanes coach had seen how teams with talent failed to mesh at the appropriate times.

During this year's preseason, outside hitter Kim Bulaga and her teammates noticed their coach was not going to let it happen this year.

So the 'Canes locked themselves inside the high school and had a sleep over, writing a mission statement the entire team could believe in and refer to during the most joyful and difficult moments the season would present.

When finished, it read:

We, the dedicated athletes of the Marian Central volleyball team, believe that through confidence, loyalty, enthusiasm and focused effort, we will play every match with courage and concentration in order to achieve competitive excellence. We are individually and collectively committed to always giving 100 percent effort. As sisters united by our passion for volleyball, we will be content in knowing that we have left our hearts and souls on the court. We are the varsity team of '08 and we will leave our mark.

To Rakers' delight, the 'Canes did just that, finishing second in the competitive Suburban Catholic Conference, winning three of their four tournaments, and bringing home regional and sectional titles.

For uniting them from the start, for reminding them of their commitment to the game and one another tirelessly and for the solid volleyball the 'Canes delivered, Rakers is the Northwest Herald Volleyball Coach of the Year, as selected by the sports staff with input from local coaches.

"She had Peter Ferrito [a Texas-based motivational speaker] come talk to us early in the season, and we started to develop that mission statement," Bulaga said. "We made our own mission statements as well and we would read them to one another often throughout the season. That was how she really kept us together.

"... We would read our mission statement before all our big games and whenever we would have a bad practice or play a bad game, she'd pull it out and read it to us. It was so helpful, and it really reminded us all the time that we were playing for one another."

Rakers, in her 10 years as Marian's head coach, identified this team perhaps more than any other she'd coached as one that worked together above all else.

"They just took care of one another out there," Rakers said. "No one was out for themselves. They were truly concerned about one another and they were working toward the greater good. This team was really more of a team than any other I can remember."

That kind of team work earned the Hurricanes a berth in the supersectional before losing to Chicago Payton in three games.

But the 'Canes took even that painful loss with class, Rakers said.

"Character counts," she said. "And theirs was superior.

"... You have to give so much of the credit to the girls. They were such a talented group of kids that work so hard all year to play the way they did. And I've been blessed to have a great coaching staff with me in [assistant] Laura Watling and [sophomore coach] Madeline Spitson. ... They make me look good."

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