The Knights (35-3) finished their season by winning 23 games in a row, including five in six days to win the tournament. The players did a remarkable job of trusting one another in the tourney; they took each individual assignment to heart.
Gearlds, a graduate of Beech Grove High School who also named Coach of the Year last season, has a special group of players and coaches that work well.
“I am so proud of this group,” she said. “We went through it all this year, losing three games before Christmas. They stuck it out and believed in us. I don’t know a team that works as hard as this team. I am proud to be their leader.”
Marian’s Jessica Almeida and Joana Soeiro were named first team all-tournament, and Soeior was the Most Valuable Player. That sure brought a smile to my face. Roncalli graduate Kelli Kirkhoff, who averaged 13.4 points per game, was named to the second team.
Kirkhoff, a junior, and Rachel Titzer, also a Roncalli grad, played well throughout the tournament. Titzer (3.6 ppg), a freshman, got the ball rolling early in the tournament by scoring 11 points in the opening game against Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)
Last year when in Sioux City for the tournament, the team made a connection with Hunt Elementary School. The bond was still there this year as students and staff attended tournament games. And just like last year, the Lady Knights visited the school after winning the national title.
The team returned home March 16, and I was among the loyal fans waiting to greet them. It was a special time when they slowly stepped off their chartered bus. I spoke briefly with Katie Gearlds and assistant coaches Vicky Volonaki and Mark Parker. I also had a short visit with Kellie Kirkhoff and Rachel Titzer. The word “tired” came up often.
I feel honored to have this connection with this team. We will really miss the graduating seniors: Ana Kirby, Jessica Almeida and Jenna Sullivan.
The Southside was once again well-represented in Sioux City. Thank you, Lady Knights! I can’t wait for next year.