CHICAGO | The numbers look good to Arlene Ramos.
A .706 winning percentage? Sure. A No. 2 seed in next week's Seton Academy Class 1A Regional for her St. Francis de Sales volleyball team? Absolutely.
But those aren't the numbers that really have her eye.
"I have 10 seniors and this is my 10th year at de Sales," said Ramos, pausing to let the math sink in. "It's my 20th year (coaching) overall. I was born on the 20th — 20's an important number for me.
"And the last time de Sales won a regional was in 1993-94 — 20 years ago."
Numerology aside, there are reasons to like the Pioneers' chances in the regional, in which they'll begin play at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the winner of a play-in game between Providence-St. Mel and Bridgeview Aqsa.
First, the Pioneers, at 12-5, have already matched their highest win total under Ramos. Second, they've managed to acquit themselves well against larger schools such as Gordon Tech, which fended off de Sales' bid for a three-way tie in the GCAC White last week, stopping the Spartans 25-20, 25-16.
De Sales didn't run a lot of offense in the loss, but its dogged defense forced the Rams, a Class 3A squad, into numerous hitting errors.
"We're pretty decent on defense," Ramos said. "We've been complimented by higher-quality programs such as De La Salle that we have a really good defense."
The Spartans' regulars, other than 5-foot-11 middle hitter Jailin Burchett, are a smallish lot. But Jensen Hunt and Keaera Cunningham, outside hitters both, get their share of kills. Other hitters include Aarin Adams and Mayra Munoz, while Bianca Garcia is de Sales' go-to defensive specialist.
The setting – and leadership – duties are split between sisters Stephanie (a senior) and Erika (a sophomore) Galan.
"There's a lot of heart on this team," Ramos said. "It comes from all the girls, but specifically Erika Galan. The program is going to be in her hands next year."
The younger Galan conceded it's not quite that way yet. Her sister is a take-charge type.
"She's the older one, but I calm her down," Erika said. "It's sort of a yin-yang thing. She's the sassy one."
She's not the only one, judging by Ramos' disregard for the standard coach-speak.
"I know it's one game at a time," she said. "But I could definitely see my girls walking out of that gym with the regional plaque."
And what of top-seeded Bridgeview Universal?
"Last year, we beat them in the second round of the regional," she said.