If there was any way for the OPRF volleyball team to retrace its steps back to the first game of the season and replay every point, it’s likely they would. But the trip back in time would probably come with one condition: That the Huskies are at full strength.

The team has struggled to get going early in the season more than partly due to the fact that two of its returning starters, Brian Schmidt and Ryan O’Malley, have been absent. Schmidt, a 6-foot-7-inch outside hitter, who was second on the team in total kills last season with 275, was overseas with the school’s orchestra. The senior was expected to return to the court this week. O’Malley has been ineligible for academic reasons, according to head coach Don August.

“Ryan assured me he’d be returning soon, possibly even [this week],” said August of his 6-foot-5-inch senior.

Both Schmidt and O’Malley were instrumental in leading the Huskies to the state tournament last season, where they lost in the first round. OPRF went into the Best of Illinois tournament last weekend without its two star players and a lackluster 1-5 record. The team lost all three of its games at the tournament.

Trying to hold down the fort has been returners Adam Smalheizer (6-1, setter) and James Clarke (6-4, mid-hitter). But without Schmidt and O’Malley, who August said is to play a prominent part in the team’s offensive production this season, the Huskies are struggling to stay afloat.

“We had hoped this year to get off to a real good start,” said August, who coached the Huskies to a 23-17 record last season, his first since replacing John Kasik. “To not have two key players makes it pretty frustrating and disappointing. But there is a bright spot. Several players are getting quality playing time and are able to improve their skills in game situations. That’s a positive for us.”

Cashing in on the experience has been newcomers Tim Schmidt, Charlie Kahn, Drew Sumner and Blake Austin, a 6-6 junior straight off the basketball court.

August said he’s confident that once the team is fully intact and jelling-probably by the Downers Grove South tournament in mid-April-the Huskies have a shot at advancing beyond the state quarterfinals.

“We are certainly capable of winning the sectional again and going back to state,” he said. “The goal right now is to be in the semifinals. But I’d say we’ll know more in the next few weeks. Trying to improve on our overall record really isn’t our concern right now.”

As far as the West Suburban (Silver) Conference goes, the Huskies are in the mix with York, Lyons Township and Downers Grove North for a chance at the top spot.

The Huskies, who have been on the road for the first eight games of the season, host Holy Trinity in their home opener on Tuesday (6 p.m.).

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...