On weekends, Osage plays more volleyball.
The Green Devils went 8-0 without dropping a single set to clinch the TIC East for the third year in a row on Tuesday.
But that’s not when they play their toughest competition. Overall, the Green Devils hold a 20-8 record, dropping matches to top-teams like No. 1 in Class 2A Dike-New Hartford, No. 1 in Class 5A Cedar Falls, No. 5 in Class 4A Waverly-Shell Rock, No. 5 in Class 3A Gilbert and No. 3 in Class 2A Grundy Center. But it’s those losses that allow growth.
At Mason City on Saturday, the Green Devils went to work with dominate wins over Webster City, Mason City, Central Springs and Humboldt. Their only loss would be a 2-0 sweep by Waverly-Shell Rock in the championship game, capping off a 5-1 performance on the day.
“Obviously leaving any tournament 5-1 is a nice day,” head coach Andie Olson said. “I don’t think that we played to our potential against Waverly, which is what we were waiting for. And we’ve been talking about this since we lost to them in 3 at our tournament way back in September about getting another shot at them.”
At No. 6 in Class 3A, Osage had nothing to lose and more to gain in a rematch with Waverly-Shell Rock.
But the first set started off messy. The Green Devils struggled with serve-receive, allowing the Go-Hawks to go on a four-point run to extend a 16-9 deficit. Osage would rally back three points, but struggled once again to put the first ball up, trailing the Go-Hawks 20-12. Despite a pair of kills by seniors Kelsey Havel and Brenna Jacobs, the Green Devils were unable to come back and lost the first set 25-17.
“I feel like being the underdogs it’s hard to switch into that mindset,” junior setter Rylie Olson said. “Because we’re so used to winning in three, so having to flip that switch and play well the whole time is hard to transition into.”
The score would be the same in the second set, 25-17, but it would come with more extended rallies. Havel was fighting for her 1,000-dig mark on the back row, while also slamming three kills on the front. Jacobs would utilize her signature line-kill move off of shoot-sets from junior Rylie Olson to throw off the Go-Hawks’ defense.
Freshman Dani Johnson found holes in the blocks up front, slamming four kills in and around the wall of hands. Junior Sydney Midlang added to her team-high of 20 blocks on the day, learning the arms of her opponents. Junior Kourtney Chambers manned the back line, racking up nine digs to add to her total of 25.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the block hits the last two weeks and trying to really train not only our setter, but our middles, to have one-on-ones, they need to learn to go around it and put the ball away in a one-on-one situation,” Coach Olson said. “I think the block hits are huge because it’s coming back at you right away and you can’t just stand and watch you have to be down and ready. In our last two weeks, the defense has improved a lot.”
The teams tied seven times until the Go-Hawks went on a four-point run at 15-16 for a 20-15 lead. The Green Devils rallied two more points, but were unable to come back.
“Our focus is something we need to work on,” Olson said. “We’re not focused all the time, we’re focused in spurts, but we just need to maintain that intensity from point one to point 25.”
Havel finished the day with a team-high 36 kills, Johnson was next with 20 kills and Jacobs had 17. Olson finished the day with a double-double performance of 90 assists and 21 digs.
“I think being checked in every ball every match is key because we get in cruise control mode and we kind of tend to play to what the competition is doing instead of setting the tempo the way we want to play,” Coach Olson said. “So just continuing to be that team all the time and not just doing it when we feel like it is where we need to improve.