Fort Osage volleyball coach Vanessa Gage could see the jitteriness. A trip to rival William Chrisman always heightens the tension for the Indians, and early on they struggled to find their groove.
Nothing like a 10-0 run to calm the nerves.
Fort Osage scored the last 10 points of the first set, took a deep breath and went on to claim a 25-16, 25-19 Suburban Middle Seven victory Tuesday night at Chrisman.
“I feel like at the beginning, they were like, ‘Oh we’re playing Chrisman’ and they get so excited when we’re playing Chrisman,” Gage said. “I think once we got out of our heads a little bit, we were able to play our game more.”
Fort Osage (12-4-1, 4-1 Middle Seven) and Chrisman (3-7, 2-2) battled through six ties and three lead changes in the first set before the Indians took control. The set-ending streak capped a 12-1 run by the Indians that started after Chrisman took a 15-13 lead.
The Bears led 16-15 before the Indians tore loose behind some solid hitting from junior Kendra Siefker and senior Rachel Tharp, who combined for most of the Indians’ kills.
Tharp, an outside hitter, recorded two kills during the run. Siefker, a middle hitter, also provided two winners, including a spike at the net for the next-to-last point.
“I think we just hit that point where everything clicks together,” Siefker said. “Because in the beginning it was like point for point back and forth, and we weren’t clicking as a team yet.”
That run set the tone for the second set, Siefker said, even though Chrisman stayed close most of the way. An early 6-0 run, capped by an ace from junior Gia Moore, gave the Bears a 9-5 lead.
But when Fort Osage answered with an 8-1 run, the Indians never trailed again. Chrisman battled back within 21-18 before the Indians closed out the match with a 4-1 run.
“Once we started rolling we could really swing more,” Siefker said. “We wouldn’t have to worry about just getting it in; we could be more aggressive with it.”
Mallory McGraw had four kills to lead Chrisman, which also got three kills each from Moore and Jennifer David. Unforced errors were the Bears’ biggest downfall. Chrisman miscues, in fact, accounted for almost half of Fort Osage’s points during its first-set run.
“Mentally we struggled big time,” Chrisman coach Mary Lile said. “We kept giving them too many free balls or we had unforced errors. We get to that slump and that’s what happens.”
And while Chrisman slumped, the Indians soared in one of the more nerve-wracking and hostile environments they usually face each season.
“It’s always exciting when you come here,” Gage said. “It’s loud and it’s always a good game. I think they’re pleased with the way they played.”