Orioles receive No. 2 seed in state tournament
By Bob San
Osseo-Maple Grove Sports
Osseo High volleyball coach Bill Quan knew when the season began that he had a very good team coming back. But after the Orioles swept Champlin Park 25-18, 25-21, 25-18 to capture the Section 5 championship last Saturday, Quan had a hard time believing Osseo is entering the state tournament with a 28-1 record.
“We are 28-1 and I am still surprised,” said Quan, who led Osseo to its last state tournament in 2008. ““It’s been a fun ride. This is a special group of girls. They have great chemistry all along and they believe in each other so much. They have put a lot of work into the season and it has paid off. These girls come to play with poise in big games. Not much seem to rattle them.”
In the biggest game of the season, the Orioles were challenged but not rattled by Champlin Park in the section final. The Rebels, who played without their injured top hitter Marija Sampson, put up a good fight and fought Osseo point for point throughout the 1 hour 15 minutes contest. But in the end, Osseo’s diversified offense and overall balance won out.
Osseo senior Jackie Jones was crying tears of joy at the realization that her longtime dream has come true.
“I am just overcome with emotions. I am so happy right now,” she said. “Ever since freshman year our dreams have always been to go to state. It has finally come true. It doesn’t seem real. I can’t believe we will be playing at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday.”
Jones and the Orioles came close last year when they lost 3-1 to a powerful Blaine squad in the section final. The Orioles gained from that experience and took care of business as the No. 1 seed this season.
“We have six returning players who were in that match so we know what it felt like to be in the section championship and we know what we had to do to get here to win so it helped a lot,” Jones said.
After last year’s disappointing loss, the Orioles set their goal to return and win the section final. Jones, a four-year varsity veteran, said she knew this team would be special the first day of practice.
“The first couple practices we were just clicking right away and that doesn’t usually happen with high school teams because you have to get back into the swings of things again,” Jones said. “But right from the beginning we had that chemistry, we were all going hard and we all had the same goals in mind. And with the wins we had at the beginning of the season we felt we could do it. The win against Blaine lit the fire.”
Great team chemistry is fine but the Orioles also have talents.
“We just have offense everywhere and it’s super fun to put the ball anywhere I want,” Osseo senior setter Megan Pekarek said.
Rebel ninth-grade setter Sydney Hilley agreed.
“They have so many great offensive players,” Hilley said. “I know many of them, we are all close. They are so diversified you never know where they are going to set. They can all hit. They are very talented.”
The Orioles showcased their offense against the Rebels. Jones and junior outside hitter Shiah Sanders each had nine kills and freshman middle Tina Boe had 16.
Sanders said the Orioles are a well-balanced team with strong players in every position.
“We have great defense with Touria Techam and Jazlynn Tanielu,” Sanders said. “We have Jackie Jones and Hannah Pekarek on the outside and our middles Tina Boe and Emily Carman help set the blocks. We all can hit.”
Great chemistry and talent have propelled the Orioles into the best season in school history. Now they hope to make a deep run in the state tournament.
Osseo gets the No. 2 seed and will play Rochester Mayo in the state quarterfinal at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Xcel. The winner advances to the semifinal at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8. The state championship game is at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9. Eagan is the No. 1 seed.
“We definitely know we can compete with teams at state,” Jones said. “We are making our run for the championship.”
“We are really excited about state,” Pekarek said. “We want to go as far as we can. I think if we play our games we can go very far.”
“I am proud of what they have done. Hopefully we will have three more matches next week,” Quan said. “We are one of eight teams there and I think we have as good a shot as any team.”