Triton Central girls basketball has long established itself as a top 10 program in Class 2A.
The “Lady Tigers Basketball” brand has consistently churned out winning campaigns, including five straight 20-win seasons, and has won eight sectional titles since 2012.
Quietly following behind head coach Brian Graham’s “LTB” success is Ray Basile’s volleyball program that is coming off its first non-20 win season since 2014. The rebuilding Tigers finished 15-11 this fall but is squarely in position to start a new streak in 2022.
While Basile’s Tigers fell short of the traditional goals of claiming county tourney, conference and sectional titles, the program churned out another senior headed to the next level.
Defensive specialist Julia Sanders recently signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Indiana University Kokomo, becoming the eighth TC volleyball player to commit during Basile’s decade-long tenure that followed an abysmal stretch that included two winless seasons.
Basile rebuilt the culture from within the program and started girls playing volleyball at a younger age so they would be better prepared when they arrived at the varsity level.
“We’ve been really lucky the last couple of years to have some players that have really focused in and made this their passion,” said Basile. “And what it’s done now is, I have a whole new group of girls that are coming through that have watched them, and not only watched the success but have watched how they’ve succeeded. What have they done at practices? How many times have they stayed after practice or come in early before practice to get their own extra work in? And when they see that, now I have freshmen and sophomores that I can’t get out of here. It just sorts of feeds itself.
“Just look at our basketball program. The kids in the second, third and fourth grade see all the success the high school program has, and they see and hear what it takes to do that and for the players to go play in college. It just feeds on itself and that’s what we are starting to see.”
Basile is 178-121 in 10 seasons as Triton Central’s volleyball head coach. After 8-18 and 4-24 seasons, his Tigers ran off seasons of 19-16, 22-10, 24-8, 20-10, 20-10, 20-10 and 26-4.
There were five Triton Central graduates on college volleyball rosters this past season. With Bailey Chandler closing out her career at Eastern Illinois, Sanders steps into what will be five again in 2022.
By comparison, Triton Central’s basketball program is 202-37 over the same time span, including its 12-1 start this season, and has seven graduates currently on college basketball rosters.
“It’s a credit to the girls’ willingness to give their time to it and their parents investing their time behind it,” said Basile of his program’s growth. “Without that it doesn’t happen.
“We get the same amount of time as everyone else, two hours twice a week during the winter and spring time and over the summer. Everyone gets the same amount of time. A lot of it is what they do in the offseason. Julia is a perfect example of that. She never stops. The day after the (high school) season she is out working with the club teams and goes into that and isn’t done until the end of June then picks right back up at everything else. If you want to be great at something you have to put the time in, and there is not much of a substitute for that. And she has to put the time in. That’s what we hope continues with the girls.”
Sanders (photo) grew up around the program as older sister Colleen played for Basile. She credits the development of younger players, including her, for raising the standard at the high school level.
“Our younger programs have been skyrocketing,” said Sanders, who graduated from Triton Central with career records for digs and service aces. “I started in fourth grade and did a program here and now they are even better.
“Now we have freshmen coming in here that have been playing for five years and they have all this experience. They are playing club (volleyball) and they are playing here.”
A lawyer by day, Basile is soft spoken and focused. He never envisioned himself as a head coach for such an extended time. Sanders credits him with building a strong family dynamic off the court that has brought success on the court.
“Ray focuses on team bonding and that helps us,” she said. “My past four years here have been incredible because every girl on the team is like a sister to me because we are so close and we have so much fun when we play which is the most important thing.”
Jordan Ingle graduated from Triton Central in 2013 and played two seasons at Carthage College in Wisconsin.
Ally Williams followed three years later and played collegiately at Hanover College in southern Indiana.
Bailey Chandler and Rynisha Holly graduated in 2018. Chandler just completed her college career while Holly started at Indiana Tech and transferred to St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and still has eligibility.
Maddy Beaver, Maggie Schweitzer and Brooklyn Schiffli graduated two years later and all contributed as freshmen at the collegiate level in 2021.
Beaver attends Goshen College, Schweitzer is at Hanover and Schiffli headed south to Alabama to attend Jacksonville State.
Sanders realizes the impact those players had on her and how she is the role model now for future Tigers.
“I hope I can be a role model for them,” she said. “With Colleen in Bailey’s and Rynisha’s grade, I would always be at their games. I grew up watching them and it’s crazy to think I can be a role model for someone. That’s how I felt with the freshman this year. They were like my babies because, hopefully, I taught them things. And they were teaching me things too.”
Basile has seen firsthand the shift in mentality that Triton Central can produce college volleyball players.
“A lot of that is just more of a focus by the players playing club volleyball and treating this as their primary sport,” said Basile. “For a long time, it was a secondary sport for some of the players here. It’s not primary for everybody but if you really want to play at that level, play at college, you have to put the time in, and it’s not just the time here.
“I hope they keep seeing that – I can succeed here as a volleyball player. I can play on a winning team. I can play in college if that is what I really want to do. And that inspires them and encourages them.”
Another couple 20-win seasons and Triton Central volleyball may be creating its own brand to go along with “LTB.”