GLASFORD, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — It’s been a long wait.
Twenty-two months after Illini Bluffs lost a heartbreaker in the 2019 state title game, the Tigers finally reunited on the softball field.
“It felt like forever,” said junior catcher Kristen Graham. ” Last year, we were ready to get back and redeem ourselves from our second place finish. It felt like forever.”
The Tigers were considered a Class 1A state softball favorite last spring before the season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. So the school went nearly two years between softball games.
IB played its season opener in the rain Saturday and didn’t even get to complete the game. The Tigers had a 12-5 lead at East Peoria when the game was called in the fourth inning due to poor field conditions.
And Illini Bluffs had to wait longer than most schools to start the already-delayed Illinois High School Association softball season. Most of the softball players at the small school in Glasford also play volleyball.
The IHSA moved volleyball, typically a fall sport, to the spring in its 2020-21 pandemic schedule. Softball practice started two weeks ago while the volleyball season was wrapping up.
So for a couple weeks, the players juggled softball and volleyball practice after school. And sometimes Illini Bluffs had an evening volleyball game after the girls practiced on the softball diamond in the afternoon.
“We only had four players that did not play volleyball. Everybody else played volleyball. It was really hard at first,” said first-year IB softball coach Lindsey Lox. “Overall, they did great at it. Hopefuly, we don’t have to do this again.”
Lox succeeds Nancy Meyer, who won 500 games in a three-decade softball coaching career at IB. Now her players are concentrating solely on softball.
And they are already thinking about a return trip to the state tournament.
Taylor Purdy/Illini Bluffs senior: “That’s our dream, to get back and hopefully win state this year,” said senior outfielder Taylor Purdy. “At least, I’ll go out with a bang and have fun. I wouldn’t want to end my school year any other way.”
IB won its home opener Tuesday, 15-0, over Delavan.
“Just the feeling of being with this group of girls is incredible, I can’t even describe it.” said junior pitcher Kierston McCoy. “Being together, playing this sport, with this team, at this school. It’s something a lot people don’t get to experience.”