MASON CITY – For the past couple of years, Osage volleyball coach Andie Olson has thought that she had an upper echelon-type team in the making.
After a trip to the Class 3A state volleyball tournament and a first-round exit, Olson told her team that they could get back to the same place the next year or work hard to improve.
Despite a preseason ranking of No. 2, there is a clear sense of unfinished business that pervades the Green Devils, and while they were not crisp in their opener on Thursday, they did score a convincing 3-0 win over Newman Catholic.
Set scores were 25-9, 25-12 and 25-13.
“They are a year older and wiser,” Olson said. “I thought we stayed disciplined. The maturity says a lot.”
One player who bought into Olson’s mantra of hard work in the off season is Kelsey Havel, Osage’s returning all-state hitter.
“The off season was club volleyball two times a week for two hours in Cedar Falls and tournaments,” Havel said. “And Monday-Wednesday-Friday lifting.”
Havel, a senior who was hampered by a sprained ankle for much of her junior campaign, had 13 kills and was 21-of-23 in attacks.
What the Green Devils showed against Newman was an explosiveness that should allow them to break open the matches that might have been closer a season or two ago.
Osage had five separate stretches of six or more consecutive points over the three sets.
In the first set, a seven-point run put the Green Devils up by eight early and a six-point run shut down a potential Newman rally.
A 12-point run helped the Green Devils overcome a slow start in the second set while 10-point and six-point runs helped Osage get past another slow start in set three.
Rylie Olson, who is entering her third season as the setter for the Green Devils, had 23 assists, unofficially.
Sydney Midlang, a junior middle hitter, added seven kills and two blocks.
“We need to clean up our errors,” Olson said of her expectations going forward. “Those errors will haunt you.”
To its credit, Newman showed that it should be very competitive this season as the Knights got off to strong starts in all three sets.
“We have girls who have been working very hard,” Knights coach Kristen Breckenridge said. “We have a lot of stamina and a good basic skill level.”
Osage returns to action on Tuesday when it plays host to Central Springs in its home opener.