by Bob San
SUN PRESS Newspapers
The Osseo Orioles made it clear that there would be no letdown when they hosted arch rival Maple Grove Sept. 19. The Orioles were still
riding high after their stunning three-game sweep of defending section and conference champion Blaine the previous week.
“I have been on the team for five years now, and that was the first time I have ever beat Blaine,” said senior setter Megan Pekarek. “It was really exciting, especially to beat them in three like that.”
The victory did not go unnoticed as Osseo jumped from 14th to seventh in the state ranking last week. They were already getting some attention. That it will be amplified was of concern for coach Bill Quan.
“The bull’s-eye is on our backs now,” Quan said. “We are going to get everybody’s best effort.”
The players say bring it on. They’ve accepted the status of the hunted, and say they are embracing the confidence the victory at Blaine has provided.
“It was a huge confidence booster for us,” said Pekarek. “Now we know we can go extremely far this year, and that is really exciting.”
Instead of a letdown, the Orioles carried the momentum and defeated Maple Grove 25-18, 25-11, 25-16 in front of a large crowd. The Crimson gave it their best effort and made a strong stand in game one, coming back from an early deficit to tie the score 13-13 behind the serving of Kelsey Botkin and the net play of Laura Brixius and Kayla Crane.
But Tina Boe sparked Osseo’s decisive run with her serves. Osseo went ahead 19-13 and took game one on a kill by Jackie Jones. The Orioles went on to take the next two games convincingly.
On the night Jones led Osseo with 8 kills and 10 digs, Megan Pekarek had 19 assists, and Boe had 2 blocks.
Crane had 19 assists to lead Maple Grove and Brixius had 21 hit attempts.
“The girls did a nice job of taking advantage of numerous errors by Maple Grove tonight,” Quan said. “They played with confidence in front
their biggest crowd of the year.”
Pekarek, who was honored before the match for her 2,000 career assists, efficiently ran an offense that is hard for the opponent to defend because Osseo has so many options. The Orioles have four hitters with nearly identical kill totals. Boe leads the way, Jones and juniors Hannah Pekarek and Shiah Sanders are not far behind.
“We really do pride ourselves in having a bunch of girls where the offense can be spread out,” said Quan. “The years we have been most successful are the years where we have three or four girls with pretty equal amounts of kills, and we are there right now with four of them.”
The Orioles, 11-0 overall and 4-0 in the conference and in a first-place tie with Champlin Park, next host Elk River Thursday,
“The team is coming together more everyday,” Quan said. “We still have a lot to work on, but it has been a fun and successful season so far.”
The Crimson, 8-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play, next host Andover Thursday, Sept. 26.