Indians advance to the district semifinals

Victory was earned for School of the Osage on Monday night.

The Indians met their Highway 54 neighbor Eldon in the first round of district play at Buffalo and just like the first meeting between the two schools earlier this season, it was a hard-fought battle until the very end with every point proving to be crucial. The stakes were a little higher in this meeting though with the winner getting to advance and fight another day and the loser having their season come to an end.

School of the Osage showed they were not ready to wrap up their season and go home just yet as they topped Eldon by scores of 25-21 and 25-22 after losing the first set 25-13.

“They did not give us any breathing room and I think our girls were embarrassed,” Osage coach Travis Squire said of Eldon’s convincing win in the first set. “We said to ourselves that we can beat this team and we have two sets to do it so I think it was the combination of being kind of embarrassed and having nothing to lose. When you have no room to give up you play as hard as you can because you are in a corner and we did. We certainly could have played a more elegant game, but we got it done.”

It also did not hurt having a little extra motivation from facing a rival.

“If I want to see my girls at their best I watch them against Eldon because nobody can inspire that in them,” Squire noted. “It is not a hatred, but a rivalry and I think my girls respect the girls from Eldon. When Osage and Eldon are fighting it is on and I get to see a new gear from my team that I did not know they had until we sometimes play those rivals.”

After both of the team’s respective introductions, Eldon was the side that clearly looked like they were ready to play. The Mustangs took the lead after both sides were tied at 1 and never relinquished it the rest of the way as that narrow 1-point gap grew to as many as 12 points before Eldon junior outside hitter Leah Stichler smacked down a kill to create the final 25-13 margin.

“We were slow to respond and it was towards the end of that first set that we started playing them point for point, but it was too darn late. At that point we had to just say, ‘Next set.’” Squire remarked.

The Indians certainly did not let the disappointment of that first-set loss linger, but they were undoubtedly in for a dogfight in set two with the Mustangs looking to close out the win. Momentum continually swung back and forth as the two sides tied on eight separate occasions and the lead was exchanged four times as well. The Mustangs held the advantage through most of the first set, but the Indians refused to go down as they never let Eldon’s lead grow more than three points and closed out the win on an 8-4 run after the teams were tied at 17.

Osage sophomore middle blocker Carson Wood recorded a block to send the game to a third and final set and the sophomore was pretty to happy to say the least.

“It is the best feeling in the world and you just own that moment,” the sophomore said of getting the game point to help her team stay alive. “I’m so proud of our team and I’m really happy that we could come back and do what we do to win that…They (Eldon) made it pretty tough. They are a really good team and did not give up at all so we had to play our little hearts out.”

Squire also took the time to commend the sophomore’s efforts from Monday night along with senior middle blocker Kenzi King who came up big in the serving game.

“Carson was very aggressive with the ball tonight. She made a lot of points, shut Eldon down at the right point and had a lot of good serves tonight too. Kenzie also had some good serving tonight,” he stated.

If there was not enough tension and drama in set two, it was certainly amplified in set three. Before the final point was recorded, the game saw 12 ties and three lead-changes with the Indians pulling away in the final moments with three straight points after the two sides were tied at 22.

Junior setter Rose Colonius put her team into the district semifinals by sealing the game with an ace and the junior was undoubtedly elated to see her team earn some redemption after that first set.

“You can’t help but smile,” she said of the win. “When everybody got down we just had to be a team together, pick each other back up and shake it off because the next play is coming and we got to get the next point… This was the revenge game and we were not going to let them get it.”

Squire said Colonius was playing through an ankle injury the junior suffered in Thursday’s two-set win against Warsaw, but it certainly would not have been easy to tell by the way she played Monday night.

“I would say our game M.V.P. tonight was clearly Rose,” the coach noted. “She was not 100 percent, but she was 100 percent hustle. She is a really tough kid and a phenomenal athlete.”

Eldon ends their season at 18-11-1 and Coach Laura Baucom said there were a few things that ultimately led to Monday night’s defeat.

“We just had some communication issues in the back row and that is what hurt us tonight,” she stated. “We also played so so timid and we have to put the ball away and stay tough so I think that was a good lesson we learned tonight.”

Despite coming up short, Baucom was also quick to point out that she saw a few good things on the court as well and was very pleased to see this club achieve 18 wins. Time will soon tell what the future has in store for a young roster that featured just two seniors.

“I was really proud of our seniors in Caragan and Halle. They played well all season and played well tonight… Dakota (Graham) also had a great night serving,” the coach noted. “I’ve known some of these girls for a long time since the fourth grade and they have improved and become volleyball players so that is exciting to see… We talked about how we are a really young team and we’ll be back next year so it is about what we can do better for the team.”

Meanwhile, the journey continues for an Osage team that improved to 20-10 on the year and broke the school record for single-season wins that was set by the 1991 team who had 19 respectively. For Squire, the milestone is representative of the fight his club has showed all season and the team certainly seems to have some more fight left in the tank.

“They could have laid down because it is the end of the season and everyone would have gone home, but this has been a season of successes,” the coach remarked. “I don’t think you lay down at the end of a season of successes and you don’t lay down when you have an opportunity to take that kind of a record for your school. Since I’ve been coaching here this is the first time we have been through the first round of districts so it is a season of firsts for us and it is awesome.”

The Indians looked to take that fight to a 30-1 Blair Oaks team on Tuesday night for a spot in the district championship and after Monday night’s win, Squire said the team simply had to bring their ‘A’ game.

“We have seen them (Blair Oaks) three times. We know what other than our ‘A’ game looks like and that is an hour bus ride home,” the coach said.