After completing, arguably, their best season in school history last spring, the O’Fallon boys’ volleyball team seemed destined for, perhaps, lowered expectations in 2016. Graduation losses to key personnel potentially exacerbated the problem for OTHS head coach Katelyn Hagarty and her Panther spikers. However, after the first two weeks of their campaign the O’Fallon squad has been scintillating, boasting a 7-1-1 record after their second place finish last weekend at the Rockwood Summit tournament.
Opening their campaign with Southwest Conference victories over Granite City and Edwardsville during the first week of court action, O’Fallon kept the ball bouncing in the right direction with wins over Belleville West and Alton prior to their first tournament test at Rockwood Summit.
Relying on the versatility and depth of their team rather than one big hitter, the Panthers have soared to the top of the league standings. Against Belleville West to start the week’s action, Luke Meidel, Lucas Hackmann and Jon Worthing led the offensive attack, outlasting the Maroons in a tightly-contested first game 25-22 and stepping up the pressure the net in game two to emerge with a 25-15 victory.
Alton was the next victim, succumbing to a withering OTHS attack. The Panthers jumped to an early advantage, scoring on several Alton unforced errors. With Worthing, Mike Hovick and Ryan Nelson supplying the impetus, the local spikers cruised to a 25-5, 25-11 straight game victory, improving their SWC mark to 4-0.
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Traveling across the river over the weekend, the OTHS squad faced quality opponents and came away virtually unscathed, winning three and tying one of their five matches. Shaking off the effects of the early morning trip, the Panthers needed a late game rally to defeat Ft. Zumwalt East 25-23 in their first match. With excellent passing and fewer errors, the OTHS squad quickly dispatched Zumwalt East in the second game, 25-12, to take the match.
O’Fallon moved to 2-0 with a straight game victory over Metro East Lutheran but had their winning streak stopped in third round play, splitting a pair of game with Affton. The Panther spikers rebounded from the tie, but it took three games to do it. After losing the first game to host Rockwood Summit 23-25, the Panthers rallied to knot the match with a 25-21 victory. In the rubber game, pinpoint passing and taking advantage of opportunities at the net were critical factors in emerging with a 25-20 win.
The three-game match win over Summit set up a championship match against Affton. The Panthers struggled to establish their offensive attack against their Missouri opponents. Affton was able to take control of the first game and defeat the Panthers 25-16. The second game was a see-saw affair with the OTHS squad valiantly trying to capture the momentum to force a third and deciding game. Affton proved too strong at the net, however, winning 25-18.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season in the tourney finale, OTHS coach Katelyn Hagarty was pleased with the effort of her squad and anticipates continued success for the Panthers. “In the weekend tournament, I feel Lucas Hackmann, Luke Meidel, Jon Worthing, Mike Hovick and Ryan Nelson turned in exceptional performances,” she said. “Our chemistry on the court is starting to get strong, and we have numerous hitting options which helps make us a dangerous team.”