This was Osage’s second time to make the state semifinals, but it won’t be its last.
The Green Devils lost to the No. 1 team in Class 3A, Sioux Center, and while moral victories aren’t what they had hoped for, it’s better than nothing.
Sioux Center boasted a squad of seven seniors, including top-performing middle blockers Alexis Toering and Alyssa Mulder. Toering finished the day with 17 kills and Mulder 14. Outside hitter Camryn Cleveringa also boasted a double-double performance with 10 kills and 10 digs.
But for a six-foot middle blocker, Toering finished the day with only one total block and Mulder would come up with the rest with three block assists.
After the state quarterfinals on Wednesday, Osage head coach Andie Olson said, “We are a power team, we don’t tip, we swing.”
And that’s exactly what the Green Devils did, tallying up 59 total kills with three performers in the double-digits. They train to hit around the block and the numbers show it. Seniors Kelsey Havel and Brenna Jacobs had 16 and 14 kills respectively, junior Sydney Midlang finished with 14 and freshman Dani Johnson came close with nine kills.
The Warriors and Green Devils were similar in that sense – both teams liked to swing, so free balls and tips were giveaways.
In the end, it was the forced errors that put the Warriors on top.
Osage will lose starting seniors Jacobs, Havel and senior defensive specialist Sophie Muller, but the rest will return with state-semifinal experience under their belts, which will be instrumental in their volleyball IQ.
Junior setter Rylie Olson finished with 49 assists in the final match and will return for her fourth season on varsity and so will Midlang. Junior Kourtney Chambers returns for her third season as starting libero and freshmen Paige Kisley and Johnson will return to the front line.
Johnson played an entire season at middle blocker, a position she wasn’t familiar with in the beginning. Johnson finished the final match with nine kills and two block assists, six of those kills coming from the final three sets, when the Green Devils struggled to convert.
Johnson’s kills came at critical times in each set, bringing the Green Devils within one at 15-16 in the third and leading a potential late comeback 18-20. In the fourth, Johnson would break an eight-point run by the warriors with a kill to make it 5-16. In the fifth, she swung to keep the Green Devils in contention 7-10.
“Middle is not her position; she’s a true outside and she’s playing middle because that’s what we need her to do,” Coach Olson said. “And the way she’s developed this season has just been amazing and I think the sky’s honestly the limit for that kid and she’s going to get better and better.”
As a freshman, Johnson showed maturity beyond her years on the big stage. But so did Kisley. Kisley racked up three kills and four digs in the final match, but that doesn’t show much. Kisley’s power is the kind that can be heard, and her sharp-angle hitting is hard to block.
As an outside hitter, Kisley also sets the block when Midlang arrives and the two of them put up a strong one. If Kisley doesn’t get the touch, Midlang is in position.
Add that all together and Osage returns two middle blockers, a setter, libero and outside hitter. With most of the specialty positions in place, Osage is just reloading.
And while it’s too soon to think about next year, it’s not looking too shabby.