An undefeated record doesn’t require a team to be perfect, just good enough.
That’s exactly what Oak Forest (10-8, 6-0 South Suburban Blue) was on Tuesday night, holding off Bremen in three games 21-25, 25-17, 25-21 to keep its clean conference record intact.
“We do this a lot,” senior Autumn Seiler said of Oak Forest’s slow start. “But we’re starting to work together better to not do this where it’s a roller-coaster. It’s exciting to watch, I guess.”
Oak Forest had a hard time getting its offense going in the first game. The Bengals couldn’t take advantage of free balls and committed a number of hitting errors.
Outside hitter Gina Ryan, the Bengals’ most explosive offensive threat, had only two kills before Bremen bolted to a 23-19 lead. Oak Forest couldn’t hold serve when Ryan was in the front row and the Braves took Game 1 on a kill from Jamie Duckwall.
The Bengals regrouped in Game 2, getting Ryan involved in the offense early on. She had kills on five of the Bengals’ first eight points and Oak Forest jumped out to a 12-10 lead. The Bengals rattled off nine straight points, including back-to-back kills from Stephanie Dagenais, to extend the lead into double digits. Seiler’s kill from the left side evened the match at one game apiece.
“This time in the season, teams know about Gina (Ryan) and so we talk to our setter about trying to spread the offense a little more, especially early on, so people have to defend all three positions,” said Oak Forest coach Amanda Brown.
But, yet again, Oak Forest fell behind early on in Game 3. Duckwall continued to put down balls for Bremen and the Braves went up 18-17. But the Bengals rallied to win eight of those last 11 points. Ryan came through with two kills off the left side and middle blocker Kathy Flanagan put down a free ball at the net to seal the win.
“Gina’s proven all season long that she can be somebody who we go to and she took it home there in the stretch for us,” Brown said.
Ryan had 19 kills to lead Oak Forest, while Seiler chipped in 12 kills. Katie Zickus dished out 39 assists in the three-set match and had six blocks.
Tuesday’s win gave Coach Brown her 200th victory as head coach at Oak Forest. Brown has been the Bengals’ head coach since 2002.
The Bengals host Reavis on Thursday and will take on defending conference champion Lemont on Sept. 29.
“It’s always a game that we circle on our schedule, and we know it’s going to be an emotional game regardless of where their team is at or where our team’s at,” Brown said of the Lemont match. “We have it circled on our schedule, and we haven’t forgotten that we’ve lost to them the past two years.”