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Still in a happy state from ’08

Has it really been 10 years since the slogan “State in ‘08” rang through the halls of Princeton High School?

Has it really been 10 years since the Tigresses volleyball team went to state and placed fourth in Class 2A?

Time marches on. One member of the team remarked she didn’t even think about it being 10 years already. Those lifetime memories will always seem like it was just yesterday.

The 2008 team has gone their separate ways since departing PHS, though some have returned to live in Princeton to work and raise families. Almost half (seven) of the 15-person squad have gotten married over the past 10 years.

One team member, Katlin “KP” Peterson, remains in the program as freshman coach.

The 2008 team, one of four from PHS to reach state, including the 1990 state champs, will be reunited and recognized (those who can make it ) at Saturday’s alumni game at PHS.

When I asked the “girls” what their favorite memories were from 2008, two common answers came to mind: upsetting mighty Wilmington in the super-sectional at home, and riding the “little blue bus” to state.

“The gym was packed, and so many fans had their whole bodies painted blue,” junior team member Jacqui Kane said of the super-sectional match. “I remember being so nervous because we were playing such a good team. I remember once we scored the winning point, our fans erupted and ran down to the court to celebrate with us because we were heading to state.”

“We rallied together out from behind a talented Wilmington team with strong hometown support,” said Sylvie (Tracey) Smith, the team’s junior libero. “That support served as a reminder that we were representing something bigger than ourselves — our hometown. That is something that really stuck with me into teaching, coaching, and now raising my family.”

“I’m pretty sure I blacked out after match point ... but I do remember feeling pretty darn good at that particular moment,” said senior standout Leah Shaw, aka Big Red.

That earned the Tigresses a trip on that little blue bus to Redbird Arena in Normal.

That was the favorite memory for Tara Bonucci, a senior member now living in Boulder, Colo., who vividly remembers dancing to “Whatever You Like” on the bus on the way to state and celebrating her 18th birthday playing at the Redbird Arena.

Petersen remembers “Dancing on the little blue bus to ‘Freeze’ by Chris Brown.”

Apparently that mini-bus couldn’t handle all the excitement of the team.

“The bus “actually broke down when we were there,” said Megan Gibson, a junior team member who lives in Princeton.

The Tigresses had most of postseason all in their backyard, starting out at the Hall Regional where they were just the No. 3 seed behind Hall and IVC. The Tigresses beat both of them, rallying to defeat IVC 17-25, 25-22, 25-19 before downing the Lady Devils on their home court 25-12, 25-22 for the title.

“The regional was loaded with talent from the NCIC.  I remember thinking, ‘Wow, if we actually win this with Hall and IVC, the sectional is easier than the regional,” PHS coach Andy said.

Next came a trip to the Bureau Valley Sectional, where the score 25-17 proved to be the Tigresses’ lucky numbers. They topped Peoria Christian twice by 25-17 scores, and then defeated future Three Rivers foe Rockridge 25-21, 25-17.

That earned the Tigresses a trip home to Prouty Gym, where they punched their ticket to state by defeating mighty Wilmington 16-25, 25-21, 25-20.

“We had a great following of fans throughout the postseason, but that super was rocking.  We lost the first set and came from behind to win the next two to punch our state ticket,” Puck said.

At state, Princeton fell to Tolono Unity 25-21, 25-19 and had to settle for fourth place when it dropped the third-place match to Elgin St. Edward in a close encounter 25-22, 26-24.

PHS finished with a 28-11-2 record, making state in ‘08, but making it great in ‘08.

Welcome home, Tigresses, welcome home!

Stephanie Bonucci

Tara Bonucci

Megan Gibson

Lacey (Jensen) McBride

Jacqui Kane

Jolyn (Kane) Holland

Jess Martell

Sarah (Maynard) Englehart

Brooke (Mueller) Marquis

Jordann Mason

Katlin Petersen

Molly (Stephens) Ferris

Sarah (Schlund) Silvis

Leah Shaw (aka Big Red)

Sylvie (Tracey) Smith

I caught up with the members of team via email to see where they are 10 years later and what their best memories of that season. Check that out below.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. He covered the 2008 state team along with those in 1990 and 1994. Contact him at

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