During her team’s run to the Class 2A state championship, Montini coach Trish Samolinski heard from many people back home in the Illinois Valley.
Samolinski is a 2000 Hall graduate who played setter for the Red Devils under Laurie Polte.
“I have stayed in touch with coach Polte and she texted me positive notes and advice throughout the postseason,” said Samolinski, whose maiden name is Linnig. “My grade school track coach/PE teacher Mrs. [Dru] Heggen made the trip to [Illinois State University] to cheer us on. The Illinois Valley is a special place when it comes to high school sports. I am lucky to have received so many positive notes from friends, prior teammates, coaches and teachers. Several made the trip to ISU to cheer us on, which was such an awesome surprise.”
Samolinski led the Broncos to a 40-1 record with their lone loss coming in three sets to Glenbard West – a Class 4A regional champion – in the fourth match of the season.
Montini defeated Pleasant Plains, 25-16, 25-17, in the state final for the program’s first championship.
“It was an absolutely, amazing feeling,” Samolinski said. “It is something you always kind of dream of as a coach, but also you know how hard it is to accomplish. The girls have been working hard all year long with this as our goal. They knew it would take complete trust and commitment for it to happen and they bought in 100 percent.”
Samolinski said her desire to become a coach came from her experience at Hall, where she played on two regional title teams.
“My high school experience is the reason I love the sport so much and wanted become a coach,” Samolinski said. “I wanted to have the same impact on my players that my coaches had on me. There is something nostalgic about playing high school sports. I am really lucky to be coaching at a high school that embodies that same school spirit and support that Hall provided me.”
Samolinski, who works for Alliance Volleyball Club, serves as director of Lions West and Lions Woodridge and is co-owner of Lions Starved Rock in La Salle. She said Polte had a big impact on her coaching career.
“Coach Polte is 100 percent the reason I coach volleyball,” Samolinski said. “She was tough, but put so much heart into everything she did for us and the volleyball program at Hall. She made every player in the program feel important and we left the gym better players and better people. She showed me that I could be a mom and a coach and find success in both areas of my life.”