HR Seniors Remember Rare Loss 2 Years Ago
WILKES-BARRE — Two years later, Sarah Kuderka still remembers it vividly.
The date was Sept. 16, 2016. Calling it “awkward,” the Holy Redeemer libero described walking into practice. The night before, the Royals sustained their first-ever loss in District 2 play — a four-set setback to Delaware Valley.
Kuderka, one of several sophomores in the starting rotation that season, doesn’t forget the feeling.
“That was a tough one,” she said. “Honestly, it was kind of somber because our winning streak, like 180 district matches, was done. I’ll never forget it. Coach really didn’t say too much, but our captains did. We had like a 45-minute meeting in the cafeteria area out of the gymnasium. And that’s what we needed. We didn’t need to hear from a coach at that very moment. We needed to hear from a peer. We needed to hear their voices because they were as hurt as we were.”
Two years later, the senior class at Holy Redeemer continues to write its personal record book. The first team from District 2 to reach a volleyball state championship match, the Royals will take to the court at Cumberland Valley High School for an opportunity to carry gold back to Luzerne County.
For the seniors on the Redeemer roster, it’s been a challenging — yet, rewarding — path toward greatness in a season labeled as state championship or bust.
There’s been peaks — such as winning four district gold medals and ranked No. 1 in the state for the first time in school history.
There’s been valleys like the DelVal match their sophomore year; one that writes its own chapter in their storied careers. It was the contest that pushed Redeemer, and still does even today. One that motivates this senior class toward greatness.
“That was rough,” said Skylar Osenkarski, who was recently voted Offensive MVP in the Wyoming Valley Conference. “As a sophomore, you always know that you have two more years and you have a chance to get redemption the following season. But, that loss really did hurt because it snapped our winning streak. I know it really bothered me. It motivated us to keep pushing through the adversity and to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
That’s why there were plenty of smiles, even some tears, as the Royals finally cleared that stone-like wall known as the state semifinal Tuesday night.
So many great Redeemer teams have been there. Units with superstar hitters, amazing back rows, pin-point serving and top-notch liberos.
Yet, there was always a road block when this round of the postseason arrived. And it was usually some team from District 3, most recently Delone Catholic, providing that pushback.
“Honestly, when we won that fifth set, it was a sense of relief,” Osenkarski said. “I was just so proud of everyone associated with our team at that moment. Everyone felt like this was our year. And, we still feel that way. There was no doubt that we were going to win that fifth set. Everything just felt different this year. I can’t describe it. It was just a feeling of confidence.”
“I kept using the words fight and heart,” Kuderka added, “because I know this team has so much fight and so much heart. I knew there was no tomorrow. This was it. This is one of the most exciting moments that I worked hard for. I am so proud to be able to say that I played a role in this magical season. Yes, this is going to be my last high school volleyball game. And yes, I definitely want to win this match and will give it 110 percent. But it’s going to be three or four hours that I want to last forever.”
Three years ago, Redeemer head coach Jack Kablick made that decision. Move the freshmen to varsity as a group. Let them learn from Redeemer standouts like Lauren Slavoski, Olivia Mennig and Caroline Banas.
Their sophomore year, throw them in starting rotations, and put great responsibility on them.
Let them soak in the pressure of playing in a high-profile program and in pressure-packed situations.
“We never gave up, and we worked hard every single day,” Osenkarski said. “And you always believe in yourself and your teammates. That belief that you can achieve anything if you put in the hard work. We’ve had so much fun in these four years. We have great coaches, and I love all of my teammates. We are always there for each other.”
As they step on the court for the final time as one group this afternoon, they will never forget the ones that came before them. The ones that showed them what it meant to be part of the Royal family.
They will take the court for everyone that donned the red and white.
“Those seniors took us under their wings our freshman year,” Kuderka said. “They taught us about Holy Redeemer volleyball. They taught us how to be a team and how important it is to bond as one group. That meant a lot to us and helped our careers to develop. When you play at our school, there are lofty expectations. I was intimidated my freshman year. But, you learn so much about the program. It’s about high respect for your coaches and high respect for your teammates. You are part of something special. And we hope to add another amazing moment to the already-rich history of Holy Redeemer volleyball.”