NORMAL – Prairie Ridge coach Stefanie Otto has no doubt that this year's team, including six seniors, will be seeing a lot of each other in the coming days and months.
And probably long after that.
"I can see this group wanting to get back together and hang out in the summer," Otto said.
"There's going to be great memories we're going to talk about for years to come. We have lots of video memories that we won't forget because we have them on film ... all sorts of good stuff."
The Wolves' season might have come to an end on Saturday with a 25-20, 25-23 defeat to Benet in the Class 4A state third-place match at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena, but the memories will go on.
Prairie Ridge's players expressed optimism despite dropping its second match in two nights.
"It’s not about the wins, losses or any record," senior outside hitter Olivia Annen said. "It’s the memories we’ve made on and off the court. The team we’ve become, and how close we become, I think that’s what we’ll look back at and always cherish."
For the record, the Wolves (29-12) will bring home their third state tournament hardware in program history. Before this year, Prairie Ridge last went to state in 2004 and 2005 (Class AA), taking second both years.
All three state appearances have come under Otto, who is 606-219 in 22 seasons.
On Saturday, the Wolves were swept for the second consecutive day after losing to Downers Grove North in the semifinals. Prairie Ridge came into the tournament by winning its first 10 sets of the postseason.
Otto felt the Wolves played a much cleaner match on offense against the Redwings (36-6). Prairie Ridge had nine hitting errors to Benet's 13, after Prairie Ridge made 17 the day before.
What hurt the Wolves most were 10 service errors.
"We tried to serve aggressive," Otto said "They were great serves, and they were just missing. If any of those would have fallen back, I think that would have changed momentum."
Down, 20-16, in the second set, the Wolves climbed back to tie Benet, 21-21.
The comeback, however, wasn't meant to be.
The Redwings scored four of the next six points to seal the win.
Junior Trinity Sheridan led the Wolves with eight kills, senior Sammi Lockwood had five and Maddie McGuire and Annen had four each. Four-year starter Jayden Otto had 21 assists in her final match, and Olivia Jost added 12 digs.
"I grew up in the program with my mom and (sister) Taylor playing here," said Jayden Otto, who will play next year at Eastern Michigan. "It was always a dream of mine to get down here. Just to be here is amazing."
Sheridan will take many lessons into her senior year.
"We’re going to have to work hard for our goal, which is to be back here," she said. "I learned to play every game like it’s your last. ... A mistake is a mistake, but in the end, you're a team and you pick each other up."
STAR OF THE MATCH
Trinity Sheridan, Prairie Ridge, jr., OH
Sheridan recorded a matching-leading eight kills for the Wolves and added two block assists.
29: Prairie Ridge’s 29 wins this year were its second most going back to 2007. The Wolves went 30-9 in 2012.
AND ANOTHER THING …
With 21 assists, Prairie Ridge setter Jayden Otto ends her four-year career with 2,648 assists, 16th most in state history, according to records on IHSA.org.