Fenwick Friar Bella Gray (#4) slams the ball over Huskies Kinsey Smith (#4) and Gaby Towns (#6) during Friday night's volleyball game. | Sara Janz

Whenever OPRF and Fenwick meet, the matches are often not decided until the very end.

“It’s always exciting for our teams, programs, and community,” said OPRF girls volleyball coach Kelly Collins.

But this wasn’t the case Sept. 8 when the Huskies and Friars squared off in a match at the OPRF Field House. OPRF breezed to a 25-16, 25-13 victory.

“It was a great team win for us,” Collins said. “I thought we did a really nice job of getting different players involved in our attack, and Kinsey [Smith] did a great job of distributing the ball and keeping [Fenwick] guessing.”

Grace Nelson, who recorded her 1,000th career kill the previous week, added eight more against Fenwick.

“It was awesome and super-special,” said Nelson of her accomplishment.

Samantha Shelton led OPRF (13-2) with nine kills, and Smith finished with 21 assists.

The Huskies also received contributions from Keira Kleidon (13 digs) and Phoebe Shorney (three kills, two aces).

A junior who missed last season due to injury, Shorney has become a valuable presence in the lineup.

“It feels amazing to be back,” Shorney said. “We’ve come out super-strong this year, and I’m just ready to keep playing and helping out.”

Despite having just nine varsity players, OPRF has fared very well against a rigorous schedule, the only in-state loss happening against Marist at the Mizuno Crimson Classic, opening week.

OPRF Huskie Gaby Towns (#6) readying to return a serve. | Sara Janz

“Our ability to play well together as a team has really helped us,” Collins said. “We’ve been putting players in new positions, and everyone’s doing what they’re asked. Kids are stepping up and doing things they’ve never done before, which is nice to see.”

Nelson, along with classmates Hullinger and Kleidon, improved to 3-0 against Fenwick. She was appreciative of the large, enthusiastic crowd that turned out.

“Our home crowd was awesome,” she said. “I felt the energy was great tonight.”

The Huskies participate in the Wheaton-Warrenville South Classic, Sept. 13 and 16. OPRF hopes to get a chance to avenge the earlier defeat to Marist as the RedHawks are in the field. 

But the Huskies also realize it’s important to maintain their daily self-improvement.

“We know that every opponent we play is looking to beat us,” Collins said. “We’re confident, but we know we’re going to have to earn everything.”

For Fenwick (4-5), which is rebuilding under new coach Tee Pimsarn, the loss served as another learning experience.

“It’s a good hometown rivalry and they’re a good team, but we liked how our kids responded,” Pimsarn said. “I think this is a good growth match for us.”

Fenwick Friar Hazel Davis (#7) readying to return a serve against OPRF Huskies. | Sara Janz

Lola Tortorello led the Friars with three kills, three assists, and a block. Hazel Davis had 10 digs, and Lizzie Scharpf added five assists.

Pimsarn liked that his team never quit, despite facing a top-quality team.

“That’s our thing, control the controllables,” he said. “We’ve got two freshmen, Bella Gray and Jordan Rossi, being calm, cool, and collected in front of this big crowd, and our middle (sophomore) Marcelina Kozaczka did a great job despite being sick. We’re proud of our young kids.”

Pimsarn believes it’s important for Fenwick to learn from every match, win or lose.

“There’s a lot to take away from here,” Pimsarn added. “If we increase the speed every time we play the rest of the year, we’ll be good in October.”

Fenwick returns home this week for matches with Montini on Sept. 12 (after press time) and Westinghouse, Sept. 14.

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