If you look past a touch of gray near the roots of her scalp and discount the natural aging process, then most assuredly you’ll come to this conclusion regarding Joliet Catholic Academy volleyball coach Christine Scheibe.
She is not getting older. She is getting better.
Scheibe, in her 13th season with the Angels, is ranked as one of the 50 winningest coaches in IHSA volleyball history. During her tenure, JCA has won three state championships and six state trophies.
The Angels have averaged more than 30 victories each season and have become known as a model of consistency as their 11 straight regional titles suggests. Few have run the race to the 400-win milepost faster than Scheibe.
She reached that pinnacle when JCA defeated rival Wheaton St. Francis in a three-set thriller en route to a fifth-place finish in the Asics Challenge at Mother McAuley last weekend. Morgan Reardon registered 25 kills in the Angels’ 25-17, 23-25, 25-17 victory. Julia Shemaitis added 13 kills. And Mallory Mangun chipped in 36 assists.
But make no mistake; it was Scheibe who willed JCA to victory in a rare display of on-court emotion.
“I think it was a big deal to here,” Mangun said. “It brought tears to her eyes in that one timeout. So, we were all kind of like, ‘We need to do this for her, especially this game.’ We all played hard. I think she really enjoyed seeing everyone do that.”
Scheibe, in fact, has enjoyed every moment of what might go down in the books as her finest season coaching at JCA. The Angels took a 19-2 record into Thursday night’s matchup vs. Benet Academy. Few would have predicted that kind of success following the graduation of so many seniors.
Few would have predicted Scheibe would have 400 volleyball victories, either. She was an all-conference basketball player in high school. Yet, few in the game today can match her mark of 403-87-9 or top her ability to push all the right buttons when it comes to working with so many teenage girls.
Ask Scheibe what it means to join volleyball’s 400-win club, and she shies away from the limelight in a testimonial of who and what she is all about. The wins are not hers—they belong to the team she coaches.
“Well, I think to me it means I have had the pleasure of coaching a lot of very talented players here who come in and want to uphold the tradition of Joliet Catholic Academy volleyball,” Scheibe said. “My job is easy because of the dedicated players I get who work in the off-season and who come here wanting to win and wanting to do the best they can every year.”
And to win No. 400 vs. Wheaton St. Francis?
“Well, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world,” Scheibe said, a smile crossing her face.
She picks her words carefully here because the two teams could meet again at the sectional level in the upcoming state playoffs. She knows better than to provide bulletin board material.
“It’s a very good likelihood,” Scheibe said. “We are in the same sectional, but we have other good teams in our sectional, too. So, it’s just going to be how we play down the road and whether we’ll match up again.”
JCA is right on schedule—thanks in no small part to Scheibe.
“The standard is set high here,” she said. “When you lose as many seniors as I did from last season, you never know quite what to expect coming in. I knew we had Morgan Reardon back, and she would be a key to our success this season.
“But a lot of other girls have stepped up around here. She doesn’t need to be a one-woman show. And every single team member has contributed in some way this year. And I think that’s the fun thing. I have 12 girls that I feel comfortable putting out on the floor at any given time.”
Shemaitis, a 5-10 junior outside hitter, said Scheibe helped her adapt to the quicker pace of varsity volleyball when she first was called up to the varsity ranks as a sophomore. And Shemaitis pointed to practice drills Scheibe employs that have taught her to push until the whistle sounds.
One is called, “Ball is Never Dead.”
“You keep on going—no matter what,” Shemaitis said. “The other person can hit the ball out, but you still have to go for it. I think that really helps with playing with your heart and having the mentality that the ball never should drop.”
Mangun, a 5-7 senior setter, makes like JCA’s quarterback. Her job goes beyond setting the Angels’ big hitters. She has to bark out the commands and keep everyone working together, particularly important in tense situations and loud gymnasiums.
No wonder she has come to be recognized as an extension of Scheibe running JCA’s 6-1 offense.
“She expects me to run the court and make sure we push to our finish,” Mangun said. “We push to 20 points first, before the other team gets to 12. Then, we push to 25. So, it’s basically making sure everyone is on the same page, that we’re connecting well as a team.”
Leadership is the word Mangun uses to describe what Scheibe has taught her.
Truth be told, Mangun has come to realize leadership is more than a word, that it is an acquired skill and an intangible trait she one day will carry with her into the real world.
Scheibe derives her greatest sense of satisfaction when her players come back, long after they’ve retired their JCA volleyball jerseys, and tell tales of their other-worldly successes. She counts those victories as dear to her heart.