A shakeup in the rankings is in order.
Two days after top-ranked Harrisburg fell in four sets to Washington, No. 5 O’Gorman gave second-ranked Brandon Valley the same treatment with an impressive four-set victory, winning 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 25-16 at the Knights’ gym.
With the postseason just around the corner, it was good timing for the Knights to pick up a signature win.
“We haven’t been winning a lot,” said coach Julie Kolbeck, “and you can look at your losses one of two ways. You can learn from them and move forward, or you can lose and not learn anything. This is a group of kids that’s learning from every win and every loss.”
Kolbeck attributes her team’s success to aggressive serving, to neutralize Brandon’s big hitters, as well as a setup approach to get their own attackers involved. It was an approach that paid off and got the Lynx out of a rhythm.
After leading 2-1 in the first set, Brandon never led again the rest of the way and played catch-up instead. In the second set, the Lynx never led. Brandon errors piled up, and O’Gorman played relatively mistake free. The Knights also got Rylee Smith involved early and often.
The senior outside hitter paced the Knights with 17 kills and three aces.
In the first set, O’Gorman opened leads of 14-8 and 16-10, but the Lynx kept pace and eventually tied it at 22. O’Gorman pulled away 25-23.
Outside of a tie at 12 in the second set, O’Gorman used a balance attack to keep the Lynx at bay.
“I thought our kids passed the ball well tonight,” Kolbeck said. “And when that happens it gives opportunities to our hitters and they capitalized on that.”
Brandon took some of the momentum back in the third set and opened their biggest lead of the night at 10-6 after a kill by Hannah Paauw, but the Knights fired back and took the lead back at 12-11. After a Brandon timeout with the Lynx trailing 20-17, the O’Gorman student section pulled out the game-winning chant.
Brandon answered with a 8-2 run, powered by a Hanna Jellema kill and ace, to force a fourth set.
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“[Brandon] very easily could have rolled over and given up, but they played hard from start to finish in every game,” Kolbeck said. “I never felt like we were consistently ahead.”
The fourth and crucial set was O’Gorman’s most consistent, though, and the Knights never trailed. With Smith, Alex Anderson (11 kills) and Courtney Baruth supplying the offense, O’Gorman opened leads of 11-5 and 17-9 on the way to 25-16.
The late-season win has given the Knights a renewed sense of confidence.
“We’re really excited about this win,” Smith said. “This just proves that we can take anyone.”
For the Lynx, the loss — the program’s first since Sept. 3 against Harrisburg — could serve as an important wake-up call.
“It was okay against not so good teams to have that, ‘We can come back’ attitude,” said coach Lindsey Smith. “Tonight was a lesson learned for these girls for sure. That’s a mental toughness they need.
“Sometimes they need to have the consequences of their actions, and I think tonight’s a learning moment.”
Smith anticipates a bounce back, even if the Lynx slip a spot or two in the rankings.
“They’re fighters,” Smith said, “they’re going to come back and be ready to move forward.”
Jellema paced the Lynx with 13 kills and three aces, while Becca Koehn added 29 assists and Taylor Thorson 29 digs. For O’Gorman, Kassidy Skuza led with 35 assists, while Grace Wallin added 21 digs and Emily Kolbeck 15 digs.
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