By Kyle Daubs
Kayla Quick remembers those days of waking up to play your cross-town rival.
Quick (nee Jacobs) was a All-Big 12 volleyball and softball player at Mattoon High School. The Wave varsity head coach usually had to wait until the middle of the year to play Charleston, or even as late as the end of the year.
This year, the Green Wave and Trojans square off this evening, which will be each team’s second game of the season.
“Games against Charleston always come with some extra excitement,” said Quick. “Players, coaches, and fans all show up to these matches with an extra “pep in their step.” This year, though, I think that excitement is amplified even further.”
This will not only be the rivalry game for both programs, but it will be the Apollo Conference opener. Last year, Mattoon placed last in the conference with a 2-11 record, while Charleston was fourth with an 8-5 mark.
However, Charleston coach Steve Pamperin isn’t worried about any stats from last year.
“The team is very excited to kick off the season this week against two solid local volleyball programs,” said Pamperin. “The coaches at Mattoon do a great job and Mattoon brings a talented group of athletes every year.”
Charleston lost their top athletes from last season in All-State selection Kat Blase and All-Apollo libero Hannah Buescher. However, First-Team All-Apollo setter Mackenzie Pamperin returns and will look to lead CHS to their first conference win.
“We hope to bring a lot of energy and solid ball control in these first couple of matches,” said Pamperin. “We are optimistic that effort will carry through the rest of the season.”
Despite losing a heavy dose of contributors, Quick believes that CHS is going to find a way to reload and bring a competitive team to the floor.
“Charleston has a great volleyball program,” said Quick. “Their coaching staff is strong and they have a solid group of girls that cannot be overlooked, regardless of how many big hitters they lost the year before. Our blocking game will be the main focus in practice this week. Reading the players on the other side of the net and anticipating movement is critical to our game.”
Masks for players will be mandatory, as well as for spectators after Monday’s mandate by Governor J.B. Pritzker, despite vaccination status.
Even though things are completely back to normal, Quick feels that playing their rival early in the season will hopefully bring back some sort of normalcy.
“After last season, everyone is eager to get back to a new sense of “normal,” and for us, “normal” means getting hyped about playing our county rivals,” said Quick.