November 20, 2015

‘Blessed journey’ takes Cathedral to state crown and first undefeated season in girls volleyball

Cathedral High School players and coaches are pictured with the Class 4A state volleyball trophy on Nov. 7 at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena in Muncie. (Submitted photo)

Cathedral High School players and coaches are pictured with the Class 4A state volleyball trophy on Nov. 7 at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena in Muncie. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Facing open heart surgery earlier this year, Jean Kesterson had a conversation with God.

As she awaited the operation in February to replace a valve in her heart, the longtime volleyball coach at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis told God, “If I see you in heaven, I hope you say, ‘Job well done. Welcome home.’ If I wake up in ICU, I know you have more plans for me.”

Nine months later, the 62-year-old Kesterson believes that God not only had more plans for her, he had a gift.

In her 25th season as Cathedral’s head coach, Kesterson guided the team as it recently completed an undefeated season on the way to the Class 4A Indiana High School Athletic Association championship.

In beating the team from Carroll High School in Fort Wayne in the championship match on Nov. 7, Cathedral’s volleyball team also solidified its status as the number one team in the country, as ranked by MaxPreps and PrepVolleyball.com.

“This must be part of the plan,” Kesterson says. “Every day I walked into the gym this year, it was home. Every day, the kids gave 100 percent to each other and the team. I keep saying this team was a gift.

“We never talked about being undefeated and being number one in the country. We didn’t talk about outcomes. We talked about performance. We kept our heads down and headed toward our goal. It was an incredible ride.”

What made the journey even more special was the bond between the players, their coach says.

“This group is closer than any I’ve ever had,” Kesterson says. “They care about each other. They love each other as sisters. And they had a passion for the game.”

Cathedral also had nine players who plan to continue playing at the Division I level in college, including the six seniors on the team: Jasmine Smith, Kendall White, Anna Jensen, Megan Sloan, Meaghan Koors and Audrey Adams.

Audrey epitomized the dedication of the seniors, according to their coach. When an injury ended her season at the halfway point, Audrey stayed with the team through all the practices and matches. She was selected by the Indiana High School Athletic Association as the winner of the Class 4A Mental Attitude Award.

“The seniors came with a positive energy,” Kesterson says. “They wanted to be the best team in Cathedral volleyball history. They were leading the charge with intensity—and with kindness to others. There was a special bond.”

As Cathedral earned its seventh state title under Kesterson, the coach thought of her father. Before his death in 2014, John Kesterson coached with his daughter at Cathedral for about 20 years.

“I’m sure he and mom were up in heaven helping,” she says. “He said the 2015 team would be a special team.”

The head coach also shared the championship celebration with her longtime assistant, Rhonda Low, who was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer a month after Kesterson had her open heart surgery.

“She’s in remission now,” Kesterson says.

It all contributed to what has been an emotional journey for the head coach this year. She says her heart has been fixed, and her passion for volleyball has been revived.

“When you get a group of individuals who love what they do as much as you do, it kind of re-ignites you. Their excitement re-ignited my fire. This year’s team reaffirmed that I’m doing what I’m meant to do.

“It shows that God does have plans for you, and one of his plans for me was to win a state championship this year with great people. It was a very blessed journey.” †

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