The O’Gorman volleyball team looked pretty sharp last Tuesday when it went into the Roosevelt gym and swept the then top-ranked Riders, but afterward, coach Julie Kolbeck pointed out a lackluster blocking effort by her team.
Tuesday night on their home floor, the second-ranked Knights used an impressive defensive effort at the net to dominate No. 4 Washington for another straight-sets win, 25-10, 25-23, 25-15.
So, Julie, what does your team need to work on, now?
“We did block really well tonight,” Kolbeck said of her team, which is now 7-0 on the season. “We worked on that a lot and you could tell, the kids did much better in that capacity. We’re still a little bit on that roller coaster where there’s highs and lows each game. We need to get that consistency, because we have too many lulls throughout the match. That’s the next thing to work on.”
The lulls, or lull, in this case, had to be a reference to the second set, because the first and last were all Knights. They jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the first and soon pushed it to 18-5, as the Warriors hurt themselves with unforced errors on offense.
The Knights then took a 6-1 lead in the second, but Washington quickly fought back to 10-8, tied the score at 16, and stayed within a point to the end of the set, falling on Taryn Kloth’s kill that clinched it.
O’Gorman then controlled the third set, going up 18-8 and holding on from there.
Washington coach LaDawn Nesje said her team obviously didn’t play their best, but admitted that the Knights were going to be tough for anyone to beat on this night.
“Sometimes teams force you to play poorly, and honestly that’s what O’Gorman did,” Nesje said. “We looked really nervous coming in, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, they just beat Roosevelt last week so they must be really good’. So I don’t think we gave our best effort. But they served us out of system and we didn’t execute the things we talked about needing to do. You look at O’Gorman, they look like they don’t need to practice the rest of the season, that’s how well they’re playing.”
That won’t happen, of course, especially since Kloth, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter, says practice is what has made the Knights so efficient of late.
“I feel like our practices have really changed. We’ve been a lot more focused and worked a lot harder,” said Kloth, who led O’Gorman with eight kills and 17 digs on Tuesday. “We’ve done a lot of scrimmaging with the JV team and it’s really paying off.”
Lauren Witte had eight kills for the Knights, while Delanie Stene had 13 digs and Dalee Stene 22 set-assists.
For the Warriors (5-2), Ellie Benson had 31 digs, Hannah Nieman 20 set-assists and Kiah Damme and Peyton VandeBrake seven kills. Nesje also singled out the defensive play of Rochelle Ramharter, who had two service aces and three kills.
As strong as O’Gorman suddenly looks, it’s still early in the season, and Kolbeck is wary of what any coach in her position would worry about: Peaking too early.
“We’re playing well but that won’t do us any good if we don’t keep it up,” Kolbeck said. “These kids don’t get a break, and they don’t have the option of taking a day off or relaxing. It’s not that we have our toughest matches of the season coming up, but it’s going to be mentally challenging to get through so many games against good teams. Peaking is always a concern, so we can’t become stagnant in their play. I’ll continue to challenge them, but they have to challenge themselves as well.”