Baranek: Queen of Peace athletics will bounce back next year

SHARE Baranek: Queen of Peace athletics will bounce back next year

During the 2013-14 school year, Queen of Peace had a 10-28 record in volleyball and a 2-27 record in basketball. Going into the week, the softball team was 7-15.

Not especially good.

Well, I have just one thing to say about all of that.

It won’t happen again next year. Not a chance.

Why am I so confident? For one thing, there are three excellent coaches in place who are working hard to turn around their respective programs.

For another, the Eagles are coming.

Back in the day they were known as the Screeching Eagles of Mount Assisi. The Eagles of today are more teary-eyed than terrifying, sad their beloved school is closing its doors for good in June.

For 68 Mount Assisi athletes who are non-seniors, it’s a time to fly to another nest.

Many are planning to land at Peace.

“It’s a very lucky situation for us and a very unlucky other side of it,” Peace athletic director Erin Sullivan said. “I think it would be safe to say somewhere between a third and 50 percent of them are coming here. We have a rolling admission here, so it’s just an ongoing process. But we’ve had a good turnout so far.”

According to Mount Assisi athletic director June VerSchave, a handful of athletes have visited Nazareth, Mother McAuley, Marist and Providence. But the vast majority, she confirmed, came back with positive reports about Peace.

“It’s all girls, and it’s a small school,” VerSchave said. “I would say that’s the deal.’’

That was the feeling I got from talking with a few players at a recent softball game between Mount Assisi and Peace. Five of them, including pitchers Kellie Tomaskovic and Dana Bunting, already confirmed their decision. According to Eagles coach Jill Harvey, as many as 10 may be enrolling at Peace.

This makes Sullivan, who also is the softball coach at Peace, particularly happy.

“Yes, I’m feeling good about softball, personally and professionally,” she said, chuckling. “But I do think we’re getting a few basketball players, and I’ve heard about a couple of golfers. It’s sort of across the board.

“A lot of the girls, honestly, are very close to us. They’re just north of Midway (Airport), so it’s not too far from home. We also try to stress the same kind of belief system. It’s not the same order — we’re Dominicans — but it’s similar.

We had a big open house for Mount Assisi families, and when they were leaving they said it felt so much like Mount Assisi that it would be a comfortable transition for them.”

And, to be sure, a shot in the arm for Peace athletics.

There is no other way to say it other than Peace has been in an athletic black hole for about the past 10 to 15 years.

At one time, the Pride was a volleyball powerhouse, making a trip to state under Linda Vivona in 1996 and winning several sectional titles in a row with Peg Meyer. The softball was competitive under Deb Graham and Erin Lorenz, while Dolly Albarello and Ray Konrath turned out some very good basketball teams.

The spiral began shortly after Marist went coed in 2002, a decision that put a dent in McAuley’s sports supremacy on the South Side, but served as a haymaker to Peace.

“I definitely don’t think that helped,” Sullivan said. “Right around the time that the tide changed. But there were a few other factors. There was some turnover (in administration), and when there is turnover there is always a different avenue you want to attack.

“I think maybe the idea (formed) that athletics weren’t as stressed and maybe weren’t as important. Not that winning has to be the be-all end-all, but it was like ‘Come here to compete, and winning is a bonus.’ We’re trying to change that.”

Help is on the way.

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