OPRF’s Grace Nelson had 15 kills to lead the Huskies past Fenwick on Oct. 3. She had 16 kills in a losing effort against Lyons Township on Sept. 27. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

In a back-and-forth match on Oct. 3 at crosstown rival Fenwick, the Oak Park and River Forest High School girls volleyball team prevailed in three sets over the Friars: 25-27, 26-24, and 25-22.

OPRF (19-5) jumped out to a 14-11 lead in the first set, but Fenwick (8-15) rallied for an 18-18 tie. Then after the Huskies took a 22-20 lead, the Friars scored seven of the final 10 points to win the set.

“The energy is not going to calm down for a while,” said OPRF coach Kelly Collins. “That was exciting, it was a roller-coaster ride.”

“That was some great volleyball by both teams, and no one should have to lose that match,” said Fenwick coach Kathleen O’Laughlin. “It was a great crosstown battle.”

In the second set, Fenwick led 15-11. But behind some inspired play from Ella Hullinger, OPRF would rally to force a deciding third set.

“Ella stepped up and I’m super proud of her,” Collins said. “She did a nice job not only blocking, but also attacking.”

In the final set, the Friars again jumped out of an early lead. But the Huskies rallied late and closed out the match by scoring seven of the last nine points.

“We got our competitiveness back,” said OPRF senior Reese Garland. “We kind of slipped up in the middle, but in the end, we played like our team is supposed to play. We’re insanely excited about this win.”

Shannon O’Laughlin had a team-high 18 kills for Fenwick while Erin East added 16 kills.

“We’re into October, and we need to keep playing like we’ve been playing,” Kathleen O’Laughlin said of Fenwick, which saw a three-match winning streak halted. “We got our whole unit back together and we’ve been trying to get the chemistry going. I’m not worried about wins or losses at this point.”

Grace Nelson had 15 kills, Garland 11 kills and Kinsey Smith 22 assists for OPRF.

“It’s good for our kids to play in this type of atmosphere, especially as we move towards the end of the season,” Collins said. “Some of the things we displayed tonight like fighting and showing more grit we’ll need come the playoffs.”

On Sept. 27, the Huskies also forced a third set against the West Suburban Conference Silver co-leaders Lyons Township High School but couldn’t sustain the momentum and lost 25-23, 20-25, 25-16

Senior middle hitter Reese Garland and her Oak Park and River Forest High School girls volleyball teammates played arguably their best set of the season at Lyons Township Sept. 27.

OPRF fell behind 8-3 and trailed throughout the final set. They closed to 16-14 but never again scored while serving.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to that fast start we wanted,” OPRF coach Kelly Collins said. “They exposed us a little bit on serve receive and unfortunately took the momentum from us. Then we had to play their game instead of ours.” 

Grace Nelson had 16 kills, eight in the second set, with eight digs and two service aces. Other standouts included Kinsey Smith (34 assists, 9 digs), Garland and Gabby Towns (7 kills, 2 blocks each), Ella Hullinger (6 kills, 3 blocks), Samantha Shelton (3 kills), Keira Kleidon (6 service points, 7 digs), Molly Brown (7 points, 2 aces), Maeve Moran (5 points, 5 digs) and Arianna Winsett (5 points, 2 aces). Shelton, a freshman outside hitter, was playing just her third varsity match.

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