For three consecutive years now, the Osage volleyball team has ended its season in the state semifinals. For this year’s squad, a long-awaited state championship appears well within reach.
On Thursday night, the Green Devils earned their third straight victory-by-sweep to begin the season, as they dispatched Mitchell County archrival St. Ansgar by set scores of 25-7, 25-10, and 25-16.
Everything appears to be working so far for the Green Devils, who have not lost a set yet this season. The offense is clicking, the defense has been dominant, and the team’s sights are set high.
Through three matches, Osage has outscored its opponents, 225-91.
Every starter has returned from the 2019 squad that finished 37-7, before falling to Western Christian in the state semifinal round. With all that postseason experience and talent returning, head coach Bryan Tabbert isn’t surprised that his No. 2 ranked Class 3A squad is having success.
“With all the pieces back, we have a high-powered offense,” Tabbert said. “We’ve really been pushing defense this year, and just in the way the girls chase after the balls, that has really been showing.”
Seniors Dani Johnson, Paige Kisely, and Ellie Bobinet are three of the main pieces that keep the team’s offense rolling. Johnson and Kisely are both four-year starters, while Bobinet has become one of the state’s top setters in her three seasons on varsity.
A year ago, Bobinet finished second in the state with 1,189 assists in her first season as the starting setter, while Johnson and Kisely finished with 456 and 426 kills, respectively.
“We’ve got to practice with a lot of energy and focus,” Bobinet said. “We know where we want to end up this season, in the championship, so that is what we are going to work for every single day. We talk about it all the time. We’re so excited.”
In the offseason, the team made up for the lack of team workouts by training at home, and playing sand volleyball. With COVID-19 wiping out many Iowa teams’ ability to get together and practice, the outdoor game was crucial in keeping the Green Devils ready for the fall season.
“We’re lucky in the fact that a lot of our girls play sand volleyball, and they’re getting their reps out there,” Tabbert said. “They tell me that it is quite a different feeling going from the sand to the court. That conditioning is good for them, playing on the beach like that.”
With COVID-19 continuing to spread across Iowa, and causing the cancellation of the school’s scheduled football game against Clear Lake this Friday, the volleyball match against St. Ansgar looked very different than in past years.
Every person in the gym at Osage High School wore a mask, including the players on the court.
Rather than be a disruption, Bobinet says that the masks actually help she and her teammates focus.
“The masks help us focus and listen to each other more,” Bobinet said. “It sounds weird, but you kind of have to focus and listen to what they are saying. We are focusing a lot more. It was a weird transition, but we reacted good to it.”
There is still a lot of season left, but the Green Devils are already thinking about November. They want to make school history, and so far, it looks like they don't plan on letting anything stand in their way.
“It's kind of an unfinished business type of feel,” Johnson said. “For the past three years, we've been in the semifinals and come up short. Our goal is to get on the one court at state, and finish."
The Green Devils will continue their season on Sept. 10 with a match at North Butler.
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.
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