A toast — from All-American Nancy Brookhart Cherin (left), to all-purpose Kenney Gym, site of so many memories.
“The Illinois volleyball program outgrew her, but she was home to many great achievements for that team and for the program,” says Cherin, who now teaches first grade at Westerly School in Long Beach, Calif.
A high school All-American at Glenbard West and college All-American at Illinois, Cherin helped lead Mike Hebert’s volleyball program to its first Final Four, in 1987. And trip No. 2 came a year later.
But the court she remembers best 30 years later is the one at 1402 West Springfield Avenue, which opened in 1902 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
“I remember playing Nebraska and it was a sold-out crowd, and people were sneaking in the windows to try to get in to watch us.
“I remember in practice being challenged to bounce the balls up into the balcony during hitting drills.
“I remember getting inspirational speeches in the locker room from Coach Hebert for one of our big games. It was a big part of our tradition to come running out of the locker room around the gym and the crowd would yell, which would fire us up to play. So that one game, after Mike’s speech, we came busting out of the locker room and some poor woman was standing behind the door. Whoever was first out of the locker room opened the door and knocked that poor woman to the floor. I hope she was OK.
“Kenney Gym was an incredible place for us. I am sure the shouts of our team calling the ball, cheering each other on or celebrating a big play, along with the yells of our family, friends and incredible fans, some of which are now gone, are still reverberating through the rafters.
“From the K cards hung for each big kill, to the band that came to play, to the young fans who wore the hairstyles of the players, and the parents who would travel far just to wear orange and blue, the memories are thick within the walls of Kenney Gym.”