By Mark Jurgena
A 3rd place finish at state last spring. A state title in 2017. They have been to four sectional final games in a row, won 10 straight regional crowns and 14 regional titles in their 21 year history.
“Our success is based off the girls that come in every year want to keep the tradition going. They don’t want to be that team that falters. They want to do their sisters proud. When they put on that uniform they know what they’re playing for and who they’re playing for,” said Triad coach Matt Bettlach.
For good measure in those 21 years they have claimed 20 Mississippi Valley Conference titles and have registered exactly zero seasons at .500 or below.
“Every year the girls, because of the history of the program, the girls want to keep that tradition alive. They want to be part of something special and that means going far in the playoffs but you’ve got to work for it. So these girls come in hungry. I’m not blind to the fact that we’re fortunate enough to have talent coming in every year, but I think the coaching staff does a great job putting the pieces together making the one big puzzle and making it work,” said Bettlach.
Bettlach has been the head coach at Triad for six seasons after spending eleven as an assistant with the Knights for Hall of Fame coach Mike Villa. During Bettlach’s time as the head coach, he has compiled a 107-32-13 mark including that state title in 2017.
But this year the program had something new. Something to help with a competitive advantage…as if they needed one.
That advantage was a turf field to replace the grass surface of the past. The turf brought a new enthusiasm to the program, until Triad, Illinois and a great deal of the world was put on hold due to the COVID-19 virus.
“I’ve been at Triad for 17 years. We spend the first month and a half in a gymnasium. So for us to be outside was a different feeling. It brought a different feeling for the group when we showed up for practice. The kids were ready to go because they knew being outside was going to be beneficial for us this early in the season. It was kind of heartbreaking when all of this happened but we understand it, so now we’re just adjusting,” said Bettlach.
Last season the Knights went 20-4-2 and lost to eventual Class 2A state champ Lisle (Benet Academy) in the state semifinals 3-1 before beating Joliet (Catholic) in the 3rd place match up again by the identical score of 3-1.
That 2019 roster was full of experienced veterans.
“Last year we had 10 seniors and 10 seniors who contributed on and off the field. They were a great group of girls who worked their butts off and I knew they were going to be hard to replace. Coming back this year, we’ve got 18 kids coming back and those 18 kids, they can flat out play. They proved that to me at tryouts this year, those kids came back hungry. We only added a few kids to our roster this year because of what we’ve got coming back. We are excited. We’re going to be young. We’ve got a talented sophomore class, the juniors are strong. Our senior group, those girls worked their tail off in the off-season, they were the leaders we were hoping for. I feel so bad for these kids, they were ready to go, ” Bettlach said.