The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls volleyball team recorded a dream season in 2013 with a 30-10 record, sectional championship and supersectional appearance. While the Huskies are well off last year’s pace, progress is being made.
And while OPRF lost several key contributors like Kiley Nelson, Amy Schembari and Tessa Saraceno to graduation last season, several key returners like Symone Speech, Ariel Hamby and Allie Nelson all possess plenty of postseason experience which should pay off in a few weeks.
“We’ve all improved a lot throughout the season,” Speech said. “Heading into these last couple of weeks, I think we should be very successful.”
Hamby also cited the team’s chemistry as a primary reason the Huskies have shown improvement.
“Our team chemistry has continued to build during the season,” she said. “As long as we continue to gel and get better individually and together for the rest of the season, we should be even better heading into the playoffs.”
OPRF (12-11, 1-3 West Suburban Silver) closes out the regular season with conference matches against Downers Grove North and highly regarded Lyons Township along with appearances in the Maine West and Lake Park Invites.
Looking ahead to the playoffs, the Huskies are the No. 5 seed in the De La Salle Sectional. Trinity is seeded fourth, while the regional host Meteors, York and St. Ignatius are seeds 1 thru 3, respectively.
OPRF opens the postseason on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of Lane/Lake View in Proviso East Regional semifinal. With a victory, the Huskies would advance to the regional championship match on Thursday, Oct. 30 (6 p.m.) quite possibly against Trinity.
“Just going into it as a team is the most important thing,” Speech said. “When we stay together, that’s when we’re playing our best. That’s when we’re a team instead of just six bodies on the court
The team provided an impressive reminder of how dominant they can be with a 25-12, 25-9 win over host Morton in Cicero last week.
OPRF controlled the action in the opening game building a 12-point lead at 22-10. Speech, who will play volleyball at Georgetown University next season, emphatically spiked a kill down the middle of the court to make the score 23-10. After the Mustangs scored a couple of points, OPRF junior Morgan Watson nailed a kill towards the back of the court to secure the 25-12 win.
“We were very controlled in this game,” Speech said. “We didn’t make any mistakes which was great. We just did a great job of keeping everything under control.”
In the second game, The Huskies went on runs of 6-0 and 8-0 to pull away early en route to a comfortable victory. Junior setter Maeve McCormack capped off a 4-0 spurt with an ace to end the match.
OPRF coach Don August was thrilled to see McCormack, who made only her second appearance in a game this season against Morton, contribute to the Huskies’ conference crossover win.
The Huskies put up a 6-0 run followed shortly by an 8-0 run to take over in game two, and ended the match on a 4-0 run capped off by an ace from McCormack. It was only her second appearance in a game this season for the Huskies, and head coach Don August was glad that she could see some playing time.
“[McCormack] has worked so hard and she hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time,” August said. “We had a chance to put her in and it was great. She ripped a couple of serves there at the end and it gave everyone a nice lift. She’s been a great kid all year and has worked hard every day at practice.”
Hamby had eight kills and an ace, while Speech recorded six kills and four blocks against Morton. Senior setter Natalie Haber triggered the OPRF passing game with 17 assists.
“Everybody knew what they were supposed to do and where they were supposed to go,” Hamby said. “Nobody was panicking or making any errors. We played a very smart and controlled game.”