The Oak Park and River Forest volleyball team looked like a pretty loose bunch of guys before their game Friday night against Riverside Brookfield. The players, sprawled out in a lower section of the bleachers, watched the junior varsity game, joked around with each other, and listened to their iPods. One player even appeared to be taking a pre-game nap.

Moments later, the Huskies were all business on the court, administering a wake up call of their own to Riverside Brookfield during a 25-27, 25-20, 25-23 non-conference comeback win. With their full roster finally intact (outside hitters Brian Schmidt and Ryan O’Malley missed several games to start the season), the surging Huskies have won five of six matches.

After the teams split a pair of hard-fought games, the visiting Bulldogs took early control of the decisive game behind the effective play of outside hitter Nick Isdale, outside hitter Scott Pfieffer and middle hitter Chris Sayatovic. Trailing 21-13, the Huskies reeled off 12 of the game’s final 14 points to pull out a tense 25-23 decision in the third game en route to an inspiring match victory.

“I know we can be a good team, but we needed to show some character in a situation like that [third game], and we did,” OPRF coach Don August said. “We made our serves, made some big swings and had a couple of big blocks. I think we were a little tentative, perhaps playing not to lose, but the players started getting aggressive again when it counted.”

Junior Kevin Kleinman (6 kills, 6 digs) ran off 10 consecutive service points to propel OPRF ahead 22-21 in the final game. Six-foot-6-inch Blake Austin added a pair of clutch kills before setter Adam Smalheiser and middle hitter Charlie Kahn blocked an RB shot to clinch the match.

“We know that we’re a good team,” Kleinman said. “It’s just a matter of what we do on our side of the court. Down the stretch, we just turned it on. [Brian] Schmidt was making the big kills, Adam [Smalheiser] was making the smart sets, and I was just getting it over on my serve. Our record doesn’t show it, but we feel like we are one of the top teams in the state.”

Whether the Huskies (6-12, 0-2 West Suburban (Silver) Conference can make a serious run in the postseason remains to be seen, but the team is clearly better with Schmidt back from a school sponsored trip to Italy and O’Malley regaining eligibility to play.

“Earlier in the year, we feel like we lost a lot of respect when we stunk up the gym at a couple of tournaments,” Kleinman added. “Little by little, we are getting that respect back.”

Against Riverside Brookfield (16-4), Smalheiser (36 assists) set up a plethora of big hitters like Schmidt, Austin, Kahn and James Clark (4 kills, 4 digs). Libero Jon Moy also played well for OPRF.

“I think we were very fortunate to win,” August said. “Riverside Brookfield is a good team.”

Schmidt, who is 6-7 and possesses an explosive kill shot, dominated the net from the outside with 15 kills and 16 digs.

“We haven’t had our full squad on the court until recently, so it was really nice to bring it together as a team,” Schmidt said. “We have to pass well. It’s important that we use all the tools in our offense.”

The Huskies visit Downer Grove South this weekend. On Monday, they welcome No. 1 ranked Brother Rice to the Field House for a 6 p.m. game.

Join the discussion on social media!

Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...