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The OPRF boys volleyball team took Morton to three games on Thursday night, but it was the Mustangs who came back late and edged the Huskies for the victory.
OPRF fell to the Mustangs in West Suburban Conference crossover action 2-1 (19-25, 26-24, 24-26) in Oak Park. The Huskies (8-8, 1-1) took their first lead late in Game 2 as they capped off five unanswered points with a hit by senior John Martin that the Mustangs couldn't get back over the net. OPRF went up 24-23. The Mustangs then evened the score when Martin's block went out of bounds on the next play, but the Huskies answered with two more points as they clinched the 26-24 victory when Mustangs outside hitter Gilberto Lopez's hit went out of bounds beyond the back line.
"All we really needed (in Game 2) was to get a couple of kills and get our energy going," said senior outside hitter Jared Bernard. "Once we started talking and had our energy there, we had (Morton) beaten in almost everything. We were serving tough, they couldn't get the ball to the net or to their hitters. We were just doing a great job talking and intimidating them, and making them get outside their comfort zone."
The Huskies had control early in the third game as senior setter Levi Algozino finished off a 7-0 run with a kill down the middle to put the Huskies up 10-6. OPRF eventually went up six points, but the Mustangs found their momentum and outscored the Huskies 6-1 to tie the game at 22. OPRF evened the score at 24, but this time it was the Mustangs who would get the back-to-back points to end the game and earn the 26-24 win.
"On our side of the court, there was a lot of miscommunication errors (in Game 3)," said Bernard, who was forced out of the third game with an ankle injury. "There were all these miscommunications, and people didn't know what to do with the ball. It looked like we were just trying not to lose the game instead of trying to win the game at that point."
Martin and Algozino led the Huskies with 10 kills apiece, as Algozino also notched three blocks. Bernard tallied seven kills, while senior Elliot Mertz and junior setter Brian Rains each had two assists apiece.
The Huskies hung in there with Morton for most of the opening game, but the Mustangs came up with a five-point lead late and secured a 25-19 victory with a kill from the right side by Jesus Ceja.
OPRF head coach Don August knew that Thursday's matchup with Morton could be a preview of the challenges ahead in post-season play, as the two schools could face off again in the sectional.
"It was important because (Morton) is in our sectional," August said. "It helps them that they beat us, but when we get down to the end of it we could still finish ahead of them overall. Hopefully, we can be the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the sectional and play them again."
The Huskies host Whitney Young on Thursday, April 18 (6 p.m.) before traveling to Downers Grove South to participate in an invitational on Friday and Saturday.
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