If dynasties are characterized by a succession of rulers, than the Cyclones fit the mold. They’ve capped a fourth consecutive season with multiple championships, honors and a run at nationals to maintain their dominance.
The Cyclones retained their rank atop the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference and NJCAA Region IV in another battle with Waubonsee Community College, ending the regular season with an 18-0-1 overall and 6-0 conference record. For the first time this year, teams who won their region championship were required to play an in-district game to determine who would qualify for nationals. The Cyclones faced Region XII champ, Monroe Community College from New York, at home on Nov. 3, losing the 2-1 battle. However, the NJCAA had four at-large bids based on several factors, and Moraine Valley was one of those chosen.
“Every season I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of something special. This year was extra special. In the past three seasons, if we won our region we automatically qualified for the national tournament. This year, our region had to play the district championship game. Two days after we lost, I received a phone call and a text informing me we were selected as the 12th seed for nationals. It was one of the best phone calls I’ve ever received. I couldn’t wait to tell the team,” said head Coach Al Palar, who ended his fourth season at the helm. “What it meant to me is that we are now a very respected program nationally. It meant so much knowing I was going to be able to coach these players for at least another two games, especially this sophomore group.”
Although the Cyclones ended their run after two losses, they saw plenty of success throughout the season even when it didn’t look as easy as it seemed.
“This season definitely had its ups and downs. We were winning games despite many injuries to key starters, and we went through a rough patch of games, where we were not playing well at all. It was probably the most difficult stretch of time I’ve had as the head coach of this program. It took many team talks/meetings, individual conversations and reality checks until things finally started clicking,” Palar said. “You wouldn’t think all these things were going on, and everything seemed just fine because we were winning every single game. But that’s what’s so great about this program right now. The expectations are so high that even though we were winning games we weren’t satisfied with the performances and the effort. Our coaching staff did not settle, and we pushed these players really hard. Once they realized how much better we could be as a team if everyone was working as hard as they could, it was like a whole new team.”
The Cyclones continued their dominance with fourth straight conference and region championships. Palar added Conference and Region Coach of the Year to his growing collection, and several players earned honors.
Freshman Mairead Ruane (Lemont) was named Region MVP and earned All-Region and All-Conference first team honors. Sophomores Brooke Janeczek (Lockport Township) and Sylvia Kordaczka (Lockport Township) earned nods to the All-Region and All-Conference first teams as well. Sophomore Jennifer Warja (Andrew) and freshmen Iris Cruz (Hubbard) and Veronika Stafira (Stagg) were named to the All-Region and All-Conference second teams.
With the end of another successful season comes the bittersweet farewell to the sophomores, who will be missed.
“After we lost our second game at the national tournament and our season was officially over, I thanked the entire team for this season and everything they accomplished for the program. After that talk, I talked to the sophomores. That was one of the hardest talks I’ve ever had. We were all very emotional as I told them how much they meant to me as people and how thankful I am that I was able to coach them for the past two seasons. They’ve accomplished a lot in these seasons here, and they should be very proud of themselves,” Palar explained. “As for the program in general, we are still looking for our first win at the national tournament. It’s the next big step for us, and it’s what we will be working toward.”