PETAL – It was absolutely fitting that the final play of the night for Oak Grove, the match-clinching point, came on a kill from Anna Kate Karstens.
The authoritative spike capped a night of dominance for the 6-foot-3 Lady Warriors star, as she led Oak Grove to a 3-0 (25-12, 25-14, 25-21) volleyball victory over Petal in front of a boisterous near-capacity crowd at the Petal High gym.
Oak Grove improved to 3-2 overall, 1-0 in Region 6-III. Petal dropped to 2-1 and 1-1.
“Our setters do a really good job of setting us up on the front, so we can move it around,” said Karstens, a senior who has committed to the University of Georgia. “Our team is really starting to gel well together now.”
No doubt about that.
Karstens finished the night unofficially with 20 kills, from all over the Warriors’ half of the court.
She took over the match early in the second game, with the Lady Panthers leading 3-0.
Karstens got the ball for Oak Grove by throwing down a monster kill, and before finishing with eight more in the game. Five came in an 11-1 surge that decided the game, as the Lady Warriors turned an 11-11 tie into a commanding 22-12 lead.
“I have a very tall front row this year,” said Oak Grove coach Kelsea Seymour. “We’re running a new offense this year, with a lot of new plays. I thought my setter (Alexa Fisher ) mixed up our offense really well, and Anna Kate did a really nice job. I thought we ran it well.”
Oak Grove took command in the opening game after spotting Petal a quick 2-0 lead. After getting the ball on a net serve, sophomore Breleigh Favre served nine straight winners, including a pair of aces.
“I was real excited tonight, because our serve usually isn’t that consistent,” said Favre. “We have a lot of talent on this team, and I think we have a lot of potential to go a long way.”
Favre finished with four of Oak Grove’s 11 service aces.
Karstens, though, was the center of attention, and she was too much for the Lady Panthers to handle.
“I felt like we got frustrated, because they were trying their hardest to cover, but there’s just no stopping her,” said Petal coach Anna Powell.
“We were trying to put our blocks up, and our blockers were getting confused. We know where she’s going to hit it, but it’s hard when it’s flying down at your feet. She’s really good.”
Indeed, Karstens finished off all three games with a kill, including the last two points in a see-saw third game in which neither team led by more than three points until the very end.
“They are very well-rounded,” said Powell. “We did not play the ball game we were supposed to play. I felt like we played with a lot of heart, but we didn’t play as a team and we played angry. And we can’t do that to beat a team like (Oak Grove).”
Since volleyball became a sanctioned sport by the Mississippi High School Activities Association, Oak Grove has twice made it to the state finals, but has yet to win.
It’s early, but the Lady Warriors like their potential.
“I feel like of all four years that I’ve been on this team, this could be the year that we can win state,” said Karstens.