GRANITE CITY – There are three things Andrea Valencia likes about Granite City High School.
“I like the school, the girls and volleyball,” the Granite City senior said.
Valencia’s time at Granite City is running out. In December, Valencia will graduate from GCHS, then she’ll be heading back to Peru.
“I’ll really miss the guys,” said Valencia, while breaking down in tears.
Valencia wrapped up her two-year career with the Granite City volleyball team on Monday after the Warriors lost to the Quincy Blue Devils 25-12, 25-13 in a first-round Class 4A Granite City Regional match at Memorial Gymnasium.
After the match, Valencia was among several players in the team huddle in tears.
“It’s very emotional,” said Granite City coach Ginger Harrison, who also was crying.
Valencia was one of four Granite City seniors who played their last high school volleyball match. The others were Haley Jones, Ciara Tieman and Ariel Rayl, who have been part of the Granite City volleyball program all four years.
“I enjoyed all of it,” Jones said. “It was a lot of fun. I’m so thankful for coach Harrison. She was always there for me. She was somebody I can always talk to. She helped me out back in sixth grade when I would cry to her because I couldn’t get my serves over. It’s really heartbreaking to have to say goodbye and no more practices or games.”
The Warriors finished their season at 7-21-2. They had victories over Gillespie, Metro-East Lutheran, Madison, Dupo, East St. Louis, Chester and Cahokia.
“I don’t feel that our record expressed our season,” Harrison said. “I feel that our season was much better than our record. They were many games that we played that were much closer than the score that we lost.”
With the win over the 11th-seeded Warriors on Monday, Quincy improved to 29-7 and advanced to the regional semifinals against Edwardsville on Tuesday at O’Fallon. The Blue Devils, who were seeded fifth, won the Western Big Six conference title on Saturday.
Quincy never trailed in Monday’s match. The Blue Devils stormed to a 10-1 lead in the first game and never looked back.
“We play the game,” Quincy coach Barb Crist said. “We pass well, we swing away, we have fun at the net and we serve aggressively. We talk and we play defense and we’re just a pretty well-rounded team in my opinion.”
Harrison said her team is already thinking about the 2016 season. The Warriors have six juniors and two sophomores on their varsity roster.
“We were in the huddle and we’re crying and we’re upset,” Harrison said. “They’re emotional that they lost and they say, ‘Can we have one more practice tomorrow?’ They want to practice tomorrow. We’re thinking about next year and they don’t want to stop. It’s a sign of a team that’s really want to work and I really appreciate them wanting to work that hard for me. That shows that they care and I can’t ask much more than that.”
Next year, the Warriors will have to find a way to replace Valencia, who became a versatile player since she joined the team last year.
“She made a big impact on the team,” Jones said. “She’s probably one of the team’s best servers.”
The 18-year-old Valencia enrolled at GCHS last year as a foreign exchange student from Peru. In two months, she will be a high school graduate.
“It’s awesome to hear about her experiences,” said Jones, who also will graduate from GCHS in December. “There are a lot of things here that are different to her. Sometimes I try to speak Spanish to her to make her feel good.”
Harrison enjoyed Valencia’s brief stay with the Granite City volleyball team.
“I’m sad to lose her,” the Granite City coach said. “She’s very quiet. She doesn’t say much. When she does, it’s effective and she reads the ball into play like nobody I’ve ever seen. She’s an extremely smart player and we will miss her a lot.”