Crickets, Thunder prep for on-court volleyball showdown

While the Fall Creek High School Volleyball Team was happy to escape a close contest with Chippewa Falls McDonell with a 3-2 win, Osseo-Fairchild was just happy to play at all.

The Thunder had not played in two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic until last week Thursday, Sept. 16 at Stanley-Boyd. And while the Thunder weren't a smoothly running machine compared to a Cricket squad which has played 28 matches so far, they were able to get a decisive Cloverbelt Conference win over the Orioles.

Osseo-Fairchild, 9-1 overall, won Game 1 easily 25-12, had to sweat out a 26-24 win Game 2 coming behind, lost Game 3 23-25 but triumphed in game 4 25-19.

"It's so good to be back" O-F head coach Sharon Steinke said of the match which was scheduled for last Tuesday but pushed back to Thursday to meet quarantine rules. "We didn't play as consistent as we would have liked but that's tough to do when haven't had a lot of time to play together and integrate new starters and players into the line-up from last season. We don't have that cohesion just yet, but we made up for it with a lot good efforts from different players which lifted us when we needed it against a good Stanley-Boyd squad."

Those key efforts came from the Thunder's big three to start the season with in returning starters seniors Brooke McCune and Mariah Steinke as the outside hitters with junior Madisyn Loonstra in the middle.

"When you have veteran players to build around they really set a good example for the rest of the team to look to for leadership, to up their play and have confidence in." Steinke said.

They will be needed Tuesday, Sept. 21 against a Cricket squad at home beginning at 7 p.m. ranked No. 2 in the state in Division 3 now 27-1 after topping No. 4 McDonell last week Tuesday and rallying from a two-game deficit to do so. The scores were 21-25, 15-25, 26-24, 25-17, 17-15.

"From a technical aspect, we did a better job hitting our spots within the serving game to get them out of system," FC head coach Matt Prissel said. "Also, our hitting errors lessened as we advanced through the game. Generally speaking, we just made fewer mistakes. In sets 1 and 2, we had 11 and 15 "unforced errors" respectively which basically meant we scored that many points for McDonell which you can't do against a good team. As the match progressed, we played cleaner volleyball.

"Emotionally, we just tried to regroup and made an emphasis on 'taking a breath' and slowing down the game. In those big moments it is easy to want to speed up, but we took some deep breaths and tried to get back to neutral. We talked about, we cannot win all 3 sets at once, but we just have to go out and do what we can to battle for each and every point to try to get to 25 first and win set three and if we do that then we can worry about set four when it comes. We talked about doing our best to make it interesting and get momentum back on our side of the net. Everyone in that huddle knew we were not playing to our level and not playing Fall Creek volleyball and we wanted to make that adjustment to get on the same page, play together, and play for each other. Thankfully, we were able to piece it together enough to make it into a playoff atmosphere on a Tuesday night in September by the end of the evening. I was incredibly proud of the fight in the girls and the leadership they displayed as they overcame some adversity."

Against the Macks, FC's Gianna Vollrath led the team with 24 kills, 13 digs and three blocks. Teammate Sam Olson had 23 assists, 14 digs, 10 kills, Hannah Herrem had 33 digs, Catrina Cline 13 digs and Sophie Johnson scored four aces.

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