OPRF's Grace Nelson (6) bumps the ball on during a varsity volleyball match. | Alex Rogals

Two of Illinois’ top girls volleyball teams met Oct. 28 at Oak Park and River Forest High School as the Huskies squared off against Whitney Young in an IHSA Class 4A regional final, and the match lived up to the hype, going three sets.

But the visiting Dolphins gradually pulled away from OPRF and won the match 23-25, 25-23 and 25-14 to end the Huskies’ season.

“Definitely not the outcome we wanted,” said OPRF coach Kelly Collins. “But it was a great match. Credit Whitney Young, they played a heck of a game.”

OPRF started well, scoring 12 of the first 18 points. Young made a rally at the end of the opening set, but the Huskies’ Grace Nelson closed it out with a kill to give OPRF a 25-23 win.

The Huskies (24-14) led late in the second 21-20, but Young rallied to win the set. The Dolphins then scored the first six points of the final set to put OPRF in a hole from which it wouldn’t escape.

“In the third set, our serve-receive fell apart,” Collins said. “That meant we couldn’t run our systems like we had the first two sets. We gave them too much of a lead.”

The Huskies went on a 7-3 run to cut Young’s lead to 9-7, but after a timeout the Dolphins responded by scoring the next four points as they closed out the match with a 16-7 spurt.

“This team is the queen of the comebacks. They’ve been doing that all season,” Collins said. “We made a game of it, but it wasn’t enough.”

Concluding her sophomore season, Nelson led OPRF with 19 kills, three blocks and three digs. Other top contributors for the Huskies were junior Reese Garland (6 blocks, 2 kills), junior Maeve Moran (8 assists), sophomore Hannah Phelan (6 assists and an ace), and senior Cate Wollmuth (6 digs, 3 kills).

With only four seniors graduating, there is potential for OPRF to field another high-quality team in 2022. The 24 wins are the most the program has had in Collins’ six-year tenure, and she’s already looking forward to the future.

“Considering how young we were, we had a great season,” she said. “Our kids showed tremendous growth throughout the season and improved daily. I couldn’t be more proud of them, and we’ll be back stronger than ever next year.”

Fenwick falls at sectionals to St. Ignatius

Having defeated St. Ignatius during the regular season, Fenwick had every reason to feel confident entering the rematch Nov. 1 at the IHSA Class 3A Nazareth Sectional.

The Friars (22-13) came from behind to win the opening set 25-23, but then dropped the next two sets 22-25, 21-25 to the top-seeded Wolfpack, ending the Friars’ season.

“I was so proud of how our girls played tonight. St. Ignatius had a little bit extra at the end,” said Fenwick coach Kathleen O’Laughlin. “That’s how a state playoff match should be.”

Fenwick was led by juniors Shannon O’Laughlin (9 kills, 3 digs, ace) and Maeve Welsh (7 kills, 23 assists).

“Shannon and Maeve played great matches,” O’Laughlin said. “And I thought our seniors [Elise Heneghan, 16 kills, ace and Audrey Hinrichs, 5 kills] did a nice job leading us and helping us stay focused as a team.”

O’Laughlin deemed the season a success, saying that this team was one of her favorites to coach because of how well the players worked together. And with Shannon O’Laughlin and Welsh returning next year, the Friars should field another good team.

“We have some nice juniors, and they’re going to provide good leadership next year,” Kathleen O’Laughlin said.

Roadrunners’ size too tall an order for Trinity

Trinity High School’s volleyball team overcame its lack of size to win its first regional title since 2018. But against host Nazareth in the IHSA Class 3A sectional semifinal round, it proved problematic as the Roadrunners’ Kathryn Hurta and Katherine Sandt — who each are 6-foot-1 — had big games to help end the Blazers’ season 11-25, 13-25.

“Their size helped them,” said Trinity coach Ken Uhlir. “Nazareth is a great team and they brought it tonight. In order to beat a team like that, you’ve got to be perfect, and we were far from that.”

After the opening set started tied 2-2, Nazareth took control by going on an 11-2 burst, putting Trinity (25-12) in a hole.

“I’ve got a young team with very limited experience, so the big stage affected them a little bit,” Uhlir said. “We had a game plan, but didn’t hit the mark on what we were trying to do.”

Still, Uhlir was proud of the Blazers’ season, especially considering the youth of his squad.

“We didn’t know what to expect, and for them to put together 25 wins it’s a great year,” he said.

With 12 returning players, look for Trinity to have another strong season next year.

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