Payback comes with a price

? Conference title may be out of reach for Huskies.

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By CHRIS PUMMER

After a disappointing loss that likely cost the OPRF volleyball a West Suburban (Silver) Conference title, the Huskies proved quickly their ability to bounce back.

The Huskies, through lapses, miscues and miscommunication on the court, let a Thursday match against Lyons Township slip through their fingers in three games, 27-25, 25-11, 20-25.

However, payback was right around the corner as Saturday OPRF needed only two games to dispatch the Lions 25-17, 25-20 on its way to the tournament title at the Downers Grove South Invitational. The Huskies beat Wheaton-Warrenville South 25-21, 22-25, 26-24 in the tourney title game

"We feel awfully good about that," OPRF coach John Kasik said of defeating Lyons. "That was a key match to see how we came back. We were in command the whole match and that was satisfying. It's just too bad that the first time we played them we lost the conference championship, but it was a nice revenge."

While proving they could tame the Lions was sweet for the Huskies, Kasik thought the brightest moment of the weekend for his team was in the championship game against Wheaton-Warrenville South. Sean O'Malley, who finished the weekend with 70 kills over five matches, led with 17 against the Tigers.

But more important than O'Malley's star power was what the supporting cast was able to bring. Chris Lewis had nine kills in the match and Chris Ernest had eight, while setter Lawrence Collerd, in Kasik's words, "proved he is a viable varsity setter."

"We just played up to our ability," Kasik said. "People come to look at Oak Park to see the best player in the country, and that's O'Malley, but what they see is a nice group of guys playing well together."

OPRF also defeated Lake Park 25-17, 25-23 on Saturday.

Friday the Huskies notched wins against West Niles (25-18,17-25, 25-17) and Hinsdale South (25-17, 25-16).

"I don't know if we're as good as people say, but I'm starting to believe in these guys," Kasik said. "Mental toughness is the key to being a champion, and at least last weekend, we were champions."

The Huskies (19-3) began Thursday's match in a hole after the Lions squeezed out a close win in the first game. OPRF followed that with a second game in which it steamrolled Lyons behind eight service points by Anthony LeFlore, including three aces.

But the Huskies couldn't carry that momentum over into the deciding game.

"You would think we would come out in that third game ready to go, but ironically, we missed the first serve," Kasik said. "That didn't set a very good tone for us."

O'Malley finished with 22 kills, but the Huskies, who are now one loss behind Lyons in the WSC Silver, are likely out of title contention.

"My assistant and I talked it over and thought maybe that match was one we needed to win," Kasik said. "These players might have been overconfident. They were rolling along doing thinks their way, and were sloppy and undisciplined. In a game like volleyball, which is one of the toughest sports to play, you can't get away with that and expect to beat the top teams."

Kasik, O'Malley and crew hosted Proviso West on Tuesday and will be back in action today at home against Brother Rice.

"Our schedule doesn't get any easier, and these upcoming games are going to be another gut-check," Kasik said. "But we expect to win. We're supposed to go out and win."

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