With the playoffs approaching, a match between Class I powerhouse Our Lady Academy and Class III leader Oak Grove was intriguing.
While the Lady Crescents earned the four-set win (25-19, 28-30, 25-14, 25-22), both teams gained valuable experience with the state tournament starting next Tuesday.
Oak Grove still has a tournament in New Orleans to play this weekend. OLA will play Gulfport Tuesday.
“It’s always good to play tough competition, and that’s what we want to do,” Oak Grove coach Celeste Vial said. “When we head down to New Orleans, we’re going to see some good competition. We’re just trying to prepare for the playoffs, so to me, the stronger of the team we can play, that’s only going to help us.”
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The two teams have met twice this season, as the Lady Warriors claimed the 2-0 at the Set It Off Challenge in August, then OLA ended Oak Grove’s perfect 12-0 start to the season with a 3-0 win in Bay St. Louis.
“We play a schedule full of 6A teams and this match is designed to play the best we can play going into the playoffs,” OLA coach Mike Meyers said. “To play this well against them, I think we probably played as well as we could play.”
The Lady Crescents started the first set with a quick 8-5 lead, then they pushed it to 18-10 and 22-13 before Oak Grove could make a run. The Lady Warriors cut the set to 22-17, and the teams went back and forth to bring the set to its final, 25-19.
Errors were an issue for Oak Grove the whole match, and the first game set the tone for it. Oak Grove allowed OLA to get 16 points off self-inflicted errors.
“The whole match we had a lot of defensive errors, servicing errors and just ball control,” Vial said. “We were hitting a lot of the balls out. I was a little disappointed in that.”
OLA again started the second set with a quick led, but this time the Lady Warriors made a run earlier in the set. After the road team jumped up 10-6, Oak Grove scored the next 9-of-11 points to take a 15-12 lead.
The teams matched each other point for point for the remainder of the game, and Oak Grove senior Sinclaire Green finished it off with back-to-back kills to tie the match at 1.
“That was mental toughness,” Vial said. “I wish we could have done that the third and fourth. We had good moments throughout the season where we can do that, and we just have to continue to do it more consistently.”
Green head a team-high 17 kills in the match.
After that, Meyers took his team away from the bench into the corner of the Oak Grove volleyball gymnasium.
“When we have a close set like that,” he said, “I like to get them out of the moment and take them aside. I told them, ‘You played a great set and you lost to a very good team. All we have to do is keep playing like that.’ There was nothing wrong with us losing like that. That was great volleyball.”
It worked, too. OLA claimed the third set with ease, 25-14.
In the fourth game, OLA took a 17-11 lead before Oak Grove turned it on. The Lady Warriors used three separate 3-0 runs to cut it to 23-21, but after a service error and an Emma Funk kill finished the match.