VOLLEYBALL: Oak Ridge takes the game against rival College Park - but it wasn't easy
THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- The Oak Ridge War Eagles took three different paths to a three-set win over local rival College Park Cavaliers on Tuesday night even though Oak Ridge was missing a key player from their unbeaten roster.
You can watch game highlights here.
Click here for our Team Sinisi Player of the Game, Oak Ridge War Eagle Shae Green.
Oak Ridge (35-0) thrilled a raucous home crowd with a 25-11, 25-17, 25-21 victory that was much more hard fought than the final score would indicate. After cruising to a decisive win in the first set, they rode a late surge to win the second game and then mounted a stirring comeback in the final game to wrap up the victory.
Making the win all the more impressive was the absence of 6-1 middle blocker Molly Russell, who missed the game due to “a loss in her family,” according to head coach Tommie Lynn Sledge. “Molly is obviously a huge part of our team,” Sledge said. “We talked yesterday about the kills she averages and how we have to distribute those.”
The entire team picked up the slack in the opening set during which the War Eagles jumped out to a 16- 5 lead and never looked back. Carly Graham had three finesse kills during that opening surge and Player of the Game Shae Green drilled two powerful kills from the left side.
“I saw a lot of hard work and heart,” Sledge said. “They were fighting through adversity, obviously we have a team member down and had to make some adjustments. If you were seeing our team for the first time tonight, you wouldn’t know we were missing a vital member, so I’m very proud of them for stepping up.”
The second set was more of a see-saw battle with neither team able to capture momentum. The score was deadlocked at 16-16, and at that point the largest lead of the set had been just three points. But sparked by the jump-serve of Raigen Cianculli and three kills from Brooke Clark, the War Eagles scored nine of the final 10 points to move one set away from the victory.
College Park (16-18), to its great credit, was not about to make this an easy win for Oak Ridge. The Cavaliers came out with a ferocious intensity in the third game and controlled the tempo for the majority of the contest. Jill Bohnet, Lauren Freeman and CC Clausen led a strong defensive effort for the Cavaliers.
“I felt like we played well in the third set,” said College Park Head Coach Candice Collins Gibson. “I was proud of the girls for fighting back. But at the end of the day, we needed to play the first and second sets with that mind set. Don’t wait until it’s about to slip away before you step it up.”
“College Park did an exceptional job serving tough at us and we had to make some adjustments there in the third game,” Sledge said.
The Cavaliers led until Oak Park finally tied it up 18-18, and that brought Cucinelli back to the service line. She earned five consecutive points, including an ace, and then Clark wrapped up the win her final two kills of the night.