The pressure intensified when Versailles and School of the Osage met on the volleyball court Thursday night in a lake area Tri-County Conference battle.
The Indians, who had taken the first set 25-18, held a relatively comfortable 5-point lead and needed just one more point to end it. However, the Tigers were not about to go down without a fight on their home court and came storming back to tie it before the visitors ended it by a final score of 27-25.
Osage stayed calm, cool and collected in the midst of pressure and shifting momentum. With a quick strike, Osage junior middle blocker Carson Wood erased any hopes of a comeback and a third set by putting down the game-winning kill.
“A lot of communication,” Wood said of what it took to close out the game. “We had to work together and trust our instincts.”
Versailles certainly did not make things easy and Osage coach Travis Squire was glad to see his team rise to the occasion.
“We knew this was a conference game and we had a couple of rough games where we did not play our best on Monday and Tuesday,” the coach noted. “We had wins, but they did not feel good so we got fired up for a conference game and I thought they did a really good job. Versailles was a tough team, made us play 100 percent and the scores reflected it.”
Both sides tested each other out in the first set and exchanged the lead several times. Then, the Indians closed it out strong with six straight unanswered points that saw Osage senior outside hitter Maddie Henley end it with a strong serve. Squire emphasized how vital it is to always secure that first set.
“It is very important because if you don’t, it is a must-win from there on and that is not a situation I like my teams to be in,” the coach remarked. “Now, I have a bunch of seniors on my team that have been there before, but even for seniors a must-win can cause you to clam up, miss serves and do things you would not normally do when you know you have some wiggle room. We serve the ball well, we pass the ball well and when you do those two things you have a good chance.”
For Versailles, unforced errors were the culprit that made things tougher than they needed to be for the Tigers and Coach Jessica Ollison said it is an issue that quickly needs to be addressed.
“It seems like unforced errors are an issue for us at least one set of every match,” the coach stated. “We are starting to track those on the sidelines and understand the consequences of giving a team so many points, especially when they are that caliber. It is just really tough to win any game when you are giving them so many points and it is definitely something we are mindful of and working to improve.”
The second set was another tightly contested battle where both sides never led by more than five points, but the Indians had the last laugh and Squire said a lot of it comes down to experience.
“One of the things I’ve been telling them is that a point is a point. It is in moments like that where you have to be a good athlete and a smart athlete,” the coach pointed out. “Sometimes we go on auto pilot and forget we have brains behind our muscles and our bodies. I think it is in moments like that where experience plays to our advantage and we got calmed down and took care of business. But it was exciting.”
Two Osage veterans who particularly helped the Indians take care of business were Wood and senior setter Rose Colonius as they proved to be an effective and consistent combination that could quickly generate some points.
“Personally, when I’m setting I know Carson is going to kill it and put a good attack on it so I feel comfortable with Carson going up to swing,” Colonius said.
Wood offered some kind words for her setter as well.
“She sets me and I love her sets. I’m really comfortable with her and we bond really well so if she sets it, I know it is going to be a good set,” she said.
Versailles senior outside hitter Bri Hendrix paced the Tiger attack with six kills and five aces while fellow senior outside hitter/setter Brooke Edgar added four of her own along with a team-leading nine assists followed by junior outside hitter Taralee Edgar’s seven. On the defensive end, senior labero Hope Heimsoth and sophomore labero Joy Bias kept the team fighting with five digs each and junior middle hitter Carrie Hoffa put up four blocks respectively.
Although Versailles had an uphill battle at times, having to come back from five or 6-point deficits, Ollison was pleased with a lot of what she saw.
“I thought our serving was super aggressive. I really liked that and felt like it kept their defense on their toes and they were not quite able to run that really lightning quick offense that killed us that first set,” the coach said. “I think they (Versailles) are finally getting what it feels like to fight from behind and not give up. That mentality has killed more than one great team that I’ve seen and coached. I think if you can get them to believe they can win any game, that is a big battle to win and I thin we are getting there.
“Obviously I wanted it to go three (sets) just because I felt like we were starting to peak at the right time, starting to play hard and do the right things. Unforced errors, again, are just what is killing us and keeping us from really being successful in every set,” she added.
The good news is that there are plenty of games left to sharpen things up. Going forward, Ollison said it is important to maintain a sense of pride.
“Just keep working hard, play for the name on your jersey and play with pride,” the coach noted. “We are just going to continue to keep that mindset, have pride in everything we do on and off the court and just keep improving.”
Versailles (3-2) was scheduled to visit Hallsville Tuesday night and the Tigers will take a trip to Russellville on Thursday at 6 p.m. Osage (5-1) hosted Waynesville Tuesday night and the Indians will be at Eugene on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Osage stats were unavailable at the time of press