Michael Lanoue is selfish.
He even says as much.
“I’m selfish when it comes to this team,” the Coal City coach said. “I have to let go that part of the season, the seniors who are leaving. This group did everything that I asked. All 16 of them, they represented Coal City, the high school and the community very well. They’re such positive people.”
In 2013, in his fourth season as coach at Coal City, Lanoue led the Coalers to the program’s first regional title since 2006 while also winning a second straight Interstate 8 North title.
The 23-10-2 record featured the most wins the program had since 2006.
Lanoue, the Herald-News 2013 Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year, wasted no time attributing the success to his squad.
“It’s a tribute to the kids and the hours and summer workouts,” Lanoue said. “From the first week of the season on, they were on board with the system we wanted to run. It’s more of a credit to them.”
A Manteno resident, Lanoue, 42, previously coached at Momence, Clifton Central and Reed-Custer before arriving at Coal City in 2010.
The volleyball team has increased its win total each season from 14, 16 and 17 to this year’s 23. The 23-10-2 mark came without the benefit of anyone taller than 5-foot-9 on the team.
“Volleyball is a game won at the net, and we were not tall and were limited with height,” Lanoue said. “We were as effective as we were trying to go fast, run quick sets at the net and avoid the block. We had the right kids who could follow through. Everyone is stubborn [embracing a new system], but this senior group, they understood what was going on.”
A strong senior group —Kassie Aldridge, Emily Halliday, Morgan Leopold, Claire Smith and Britta Spelde — keyed the Coalers’ success.
Winning the I-8 North for a second straight season, finishing with a 9-0 conference record, Coal City played well throughout, but Lanoue identified the Oct. 17 match at Seneca as a turning point heading into the playoffs.
In clinching the conference crown, the Coalers won in two dominant sets over Seneca.
“The entire match the girls were hungry,” Lanoue said. “They showed that intensity, that focus, that drive. We played awful at Seneca the year before so it surprised me, and I was very impressed.”
Coal City defeated Bishop McNamara and Manteno in the regionals. Playing at home in the sectional round, the Coalers beat Lincoln-Way West in three sets before falling to St. Francis in the championship match.