Jenn See had a quick turnaround.
The former Chippewa County Volleyball Player of the Year had a lengthy trip to make, but the destination was worth it.
See was one of many members of the McDonell volleyball program’s 1999 and 2009 state champions to make the trip back home Thursday to be recognized prior to the start of the Macks’ Western Cloverbelt Conference opener against rival Eau Claire Regis.
Players and coaches from the team’s 1999 WISAA Division 2 state champion team and 2009 WIAA Division 4 state title squad were in attendance to watch the Macks earn a spirited five-set victory over the Ramblers. The night was also special because it was the first home volleyball contest in the remodeled and renamed Deb and Steve Roesler Gymnasium.
Kari Stepp (Roesler) was a member of the school’s 1999 title team, a squad that advanced out of pool play on the opening day of the state tournament before beating Regis and Sheboygan County Christian in a thrilling three-set victory to capture the school’s first state volleyball championship.
The Macks won 102 out of 113 games during the season, led to the title by the late Deb Roesler.
“We were always just a family. (We were) a big group of kids that played together since we were in kindergarten,” Stepp said. “My mom (Deb) taught us all from kindergarten all the way up. We just fit well together and the girls on the team and how they played for each other was what we remember the most.”
That squad was part of a successful fall of 1999 for McDonell sports: The girls cross country team won a Division 3 state championship, and the boys cross country team finished second at state.
The dedication of the gymnasium to Deb and Steve Roesler was also special for the family, which has been involved with the McDonell volleyball program for nearly every season since Deb created the team in the 1970s. Deb had a 1,483-777 career record to go with 15 conference titles and seven trips to the WISAA state state tournament. She coached the program for 27 years until her sudden passing in 2003. Steve was inducted into the McDonell Hall of Fame this spring and was joined in enshrinement by Deb.
“It’s very humbling experience for our entire family,” Stepp said of the gymnasium dedication. “I know that I could not be more proud of both of my parents and the legacy they’ve created here and to have the gymnasium in their name and to have our parents coach us all way through and have our family still do that, it just says so much about our program and how much we love it and I’m just very, very proud.”
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The 1999 state championship team helped the Macks break through to the next level, an achievement that would be accomplished again 10 years later when Kat Roesler (now Hanson) led the Macks to their first WIAA title with a four-set victory over Wausau Newman in the Division 4 title game.
“It’s very fun to come back, and it’s very fun to have the continuation with these families, especially with the coaching families with the Roeslers and Hansons and our families growing up through this school coming back,” said Ashley Zumbrock, a member of the 2009 team. “Just walking into the school and seeing the trophy or seeing the banners, it’s very heartwarming.”
Like their championship predecessors, the 2009 team was introduced to volleyball at a young age by Deb Roesler. Kat took over the McDonell program in 2008 from Denise Boos, a former assistant under Deb and a member of the 1999 title team, and picked up where her mom and Boos left off.
“When you come up in a winning culture and you want to see that taken on, that’s why people want to be part of this life and this program,” See said.
The fall of 2009 was also a successful stretch for McDonell sports as the volleyball team was joined by the football, boys cross country and McDonell/Regis boys soccer teams advancing to state.
A lot changed in the sport of volleyball between the two championship teams ten years apart. The teams played under different rules and governing bodies, in different conferences and even with different attire. But one common thing they share besides being champions is a strong loyalty and love for the program, one that shows no signs of fading away as the years add on.
See and Zumbrock made lengthy trips from the Twin Cities and Milwaukee, respectively, to be a part of Thursday’s festivities. They weren’t alone in their long commutes. Not long after the game ended See, armed with an energy drink, was ready to hit the road back to Minnesota. But it was the lessons she learned drove her to return on Thursday.
“It’s all about trust, loyalty and respect and if you can trust the girl that’s ready to dig the ball behind you or set you up for that great kill, that’s what happens and you trust each other and you win state championships,” See said.