Moraine Valley 1980 women’s volleyball team took love for the sport all the way to nationals – Chicago Tribune
They were the small team that could. And did.
With no ego, no mascot, even no name, the Moraine Valley women’s volleyball team took their love of the game to national teams in 1980 and became the college’s first nationally ranked team.
Her meteoric rise to fame was made all the more endearing by her humble beginnings.
They were from the southern suburbs, graduates of area high schools, including Andrew, Shepard, and Mother McAuley. They were young women on the precipice of adulthood who simply shared a love of volleyball.
In 1980, Moraine Valley Community College was just getting started. Unlike today’s college/career destination, it was a small junior college, a place where kids who weren’t willing to face the expense or commitment of a four-year institution go on to graduate school and perhaps choose their path could.
Athletics, especially women’s athletics, was a sideline at the time. Nobody recruited for the Moraine Valley women’s volleyball team. There were no grants. There was neither a mascot nor a team name.
And yet chance mixed with talent and camaraderie to create a powerhouse and catapult it onto a national stage.
The nine players, their coach and manager were recently inducted into the Moraine Valley Community College Hall of Fame. During a ceremony last month, many reunited and all were recognized for their dedication to the sport and their alma mater, as well as their incredible run.
“It was a great group of girls,” recalled Lisa Barcella Lau, a Mokena mother-of-one who continued to play volleyball into her 30s. “There was no drama, we all understood each other, we all listened to the coach. We didn’t even have a team captain.”
It was sheer athleticism that brought the young women together on the pitch this year. And it was sheer athleticism that allowed them to volley, set and spike their way to the top Florida tournament.
They started at No. 9 and rose to No. 8, college spokeswoman Maura Vizza said. They placed 2nd at the state championships, 16th at the national championships, and finished the season with a 38-4-3 record.
And yet, despite her achievements, many were surprised to be remembered and recognized 43 years later.
The Hall of Fame was established in 2018, Vizza said, with four to six inductees annually. This year, she said, marked the first time an entire team was inducted: Ellen Schultz, Lisa Barcella, Sheila Burke, Jackie Davis, Maureen Frangella, Jackie Gruca, Joanna Poulos, Laura Sartausky, Patti Wolf, manager Carol Filipiak and head coach Sue Gasperec.
Additional information is accessible via a touchscreen monitor across from the gym at the school’s Health, Fitness and Recreation Center.
Lau was among those returning for the event. She recalled how the team had to set up and take down the chairs and net before each game.
“When we had the Hall of Fame event, there were a number of folding chairs and I joked that we should have put them up,” she said.
Maureen Frangella Quaid, who retired to Arizona in 2014 after a career at Stouffer Foods, said nobody went to court in 1980 expecting more than fun.
“There was just this feeling, ‘Wow, that’s cool to be able to play,'” she said. “And then we kept winning.”
Because the team didn’t even have a name, Lau said, one newspaper writer referred to them simply as “the winners of Moraine Valley.”
For some of the players, the trip to Miami Dade College for Internationals was their first time on an airplane.
“It was so exciting,” Lau said. “Someone from school got us gold windbreakers. They gave us a cake and balloons. There were all these other big teams. I think our biggest player was 5-9. But we were Mighty Moraine Valley.
“I’m so proud to have been on this team,” Lau said. “I’m so proud of everyone. We were all together and worked hard and we all took care of each other.
Jackie Gruca Redman, now a real estate agent in Frankfurt and a hairdresser in Orland Park, said the chemistry is still there.
“As soon as we reconnected, we felt this warmth. There’s just something about this group of girls. We were just gelling,” she said.
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Even 40 years ago “there was no drama. There were no show boats. Our coach knew how to coach us. She put up signs in the dressing room letting us know that we were ranked nationally. Just crazy. Great memories.”
Quaid said everyone was equal back then.
“We didn’t have specialties,” she said. “Nowadays the game is much more demanding, with certain positions.
“By today’s standards, with the development of the game, we were fine. But by 1980 standards we were good,” she said.
Back then, she said, “it was all about playing.”
Donna Vickroy is an award-winning reporter, editor and columnist who worked for the Daily Southtown for 38 years.