CLEAR LAKE – “Hello?”
It’s the state tournament calling for Osage volleyball.
After a three-set victory over Forest City, 25-16, 25-15, 25-16, the Green Devils hoisted a detached tan-cord phone behind their green state-qualifying pennant.
The joke comes from a team sleepover over the summer, when junior Rylie Olson leaned over the railing of her bunk bed and said, “hello” in the middle of the night.
The phone traveled throughout Osage High School that day.
“We played ‘pass the phone,’” senior Kelsey Havel said. “So every time we saw someone we had to say 'hello' and pass the phone off to them.”
It’s inside jokes like this that brings a team together, and this year the Green Devils (25-9) feel stronger than ever on and off the court.
It’s evident in their offense, where Havel can lead a team with 18 kills in three sets, but freshman Dani Johnson, junior Sydney Midlang, senior Brenna Jacobs and freshman Paige Kisley will also step up their game.
“We don’t rely on one kid ever because that’s not how we play Osage volleyball,” head coach Andie Olson said. “ She just can do her thing and everyone else can do their thing, it’s not on her. I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I took over the program... I wanted all of our kids to be involved...So we knew if they keyed on Kelsey, then our middles and our right sides could go crazy too.”
Jacobs had seven kills, Midlang had six, Johnson had five and Kisley had four. Even Olson, a setter, had one.
But each girl brings a different set, and a different angle of kill. It’s this diversified offense that makes Osage so dominant in their rotations, because you never see the same thing.
Jacobs like a low, fast shoot-set that comes in tighter to the net. It doesn’t give the defense enough time to adjust on the front or back lines.
“I like the quicker stuff because it’s faster,” Jacob said. “I like to be more aggressive with the ball and if I can pound it down, I will. I think the quicker sets help open the block and it’s easier to get a swing without a touch on it.”
Jacobs is the perfect complement to Havel, who thrives on out-of-system or classic high-outside hits. Havel starts her approach further back behind the 10-foot line and stands slightly on the outer-edge of the court. Her position helps open her up to anything coming her way because she’s always behind the ball.
On Monday, Havel thrived on line-kills, but she can hit deep or sharp-crosses too.
“I’ve been trained through our club volleyball to hit the offspeed, 10-foot line hits, but definitely in practice at Osage we’ve done a lot of out-of-system balls, because we’re not always in system,” Havel said. “So, it’s awesome that we work on that every single day to make sure that we’re comfortable at any position.”
Midlang brings the fire with the quick sets at middle, a swing and a kill right in the middle of the court. Johnson gets creative with the slide, starting in middle and transitioning to the right side at the last second, swinging across her body or down the line to confuse the defense.
Osage took a while to warm up in the first set. Forest City (29-4) had few mistakes and were backed by senior Hannah Anderson’s three kills. But the Green Devils kept their composure, rallying from a 9-5 deficit to tie the game up 10-10. From there, the Green Devils extended a lead on an eight-point run at 11-12 to make it 19-11. Midlang closed the first set on a kill, 25-16.
The Green Devils started strong earlier in the second set, taking the lead 15-9. Kisley started to take her reps at right side, aiming for those sharp-cross kills at right side before Jacobs would have the final say 25-15.
The Indians would play their closest in the third, tying the score five times until Osage took the lead 13-10. But the Green Devils would run away with an 18-11 lead and close out the set like the others, 25-16.
The Indians have been to a regional final in three of the last four years, and head coach Lacy Jerome hopes that her team will take the next step next year, losing five seniors and keeping six juniors.
“Osage is good and we need to respect them and hope that they do well,” Jerome said. “But also take the atmosphere of tonight and the feeling of tonight and be hungry for basketball and be hungry for every sport that they have coming up.”
Osage advances to Class 3A state tournament quarterfinals, where it will play Tipton (32-6) on Wednesday, November 8, at 10 a.m. in Cedar Rapids.
“I think we just keep doing what we’re doing, we can’t control anything that’s happening on the other side per say,” Olson said. “But I do think this group has a shot at a state title if we go out and play like this every night, it’s going to be a fun state tournament.”