It took three close games to decide Friday’s girls volleyball matchup between Oak Park and Riverside-Brookfield, but in the end the Huskies had the edge.
Oak Park defeated the Bulldogs 2-1 (25-21, 20-25, 25-20) at Riverside-Brookfield. The Huskies (13-9, 2-1) kept pace with the strong Bulldogs’ defense in opener, but with the score tied at 21 they pulled away with a 4-0 run on kills by senior outside hitter Alena Tourtelotte and senior Ilaria Prata. Oak Park head coach Don August switched some of the players’ positions up for Friday’s game, which may have been the difference against a tough defensive opponent like the Bulldogs.
“I feel like we’ve been working really well together,” said Oak Park junior middle hitter Kiley Nelson. “It took us a while to get to this point, but now that we’re there and working on some switches in our starters, it’s been really beneficial.”
August had nothing but praise for his team’s opponent.
“They’re a great defensive team,” he said of RB. “Probably one of the better defensive teams we’ve seen all year. We had a really difficult time putting the ball on the floor, which usually doesn’t happen for us. We got a lot of kills, but it took a lot of swings to get there, and that’s a credit to (the Bulldogs’) defense.”
The Bulldogs (15-4) got off to another strong start in Game 2, but lost their lead after committing two hitting errors in a row. With the score tied at 14, the Bulldogs jumped on a 6-0 run, with most of the points coming on kills by senior outside hitter Annabelle Gardiner and an ace by senior outside hitter Emma Schander. Junior middle hitter Amanda Lelivelt sealed the deal for the Bulldogs with a kill from mid-court down the Huskies’ sideline to give her team the 25-20 victory and tie the set at one game apiece.
“Our passing was really good,” said RB senior setter Lizzy Hawk. “My team made my job easier because their passing was right on.”
With the Bulldogs up 9-8 in third game, Nelson notched back-to-back kills to give the Huskies their first lead during an 8-0 run. The Huskies never looked back from there, securing their 25-20 victory with a kill by Tourtelotte on a set from junior setter Amy Schembari.
“We were doing a really good job with adjusting to what the other team was throwing our way,” Nelson said. “We finally got to the setters’ tips and adjusted to their hitting line. We were taking what we were doing well and putting it against the things that they weren’t doing so well with.”
“There were just some mental mistakes,” said Bulldogs head coach Dan Bonarigo. “There were opportunities to get balls that we had been all game, and we didn’t get them.”
Although Friday’s game wasn’t one in the win column for the Bulldogs, Hawk said she was proud of the way her team played.
“We need to work on our hitting a little bit, but it’s nothing big,” said Hawk. “Oak Park is such a great team, and they always have a great program. Going so close with them makes it feel like it’s not that much of a loss because we still played so well.”