Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Spartans volleyball team aces postseason win over Oakwood

The St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team opened their postseason play with an unusual victory on Tuesday. The Spartans served 16 aces across two short games to beat regional host Oakwood, 2-0.

Emily Bigger serves up an ace
Emily Bigger serves one of her nine aces against the Comets in the St. Joseph-Ogden High School's regional volleyball game on Tuesday. The Spartans won 2-0 and advance to Thursday's title game against Monticello. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
In the opening set, the Spartans tallied the first 17 points largely thanks to the serving prowess of senior Emily Bigger. The setter served 17 unanswered points before Oakwood finally lit up the board with a tipped ball.

"I didn't feel nervous. I was pretty confident," Bigger replied when asked if she experienced any stress from having to serve as many points as she did. "I just had to get the ball over the net."

Tuesday wasn't the first time in Bigger's volleyball career that she serve a high number consecutive service points. In a junior high game against Schlarman years ago, she vividly remember serving all 25 points.

"It takes a lot of mental toughness for Emily to stay back there that long," said head coach Abby McDonald. "It was a good start."

Nine of the 16 aces were courtesy of Bigger. Rylee Stahl had four, Kennedi Burnett added two and Lindsey Aden chipped in one for good measure.

After the Comets scored their first point at 17-1, the Spartans took advantage of the next side out to go on a five-point mini run advancing the count to 22-1. SJO casually allowed four more points to take the first set, 25-5.

The second set featured much longer rallies that kept the Comets back up against the wall from the opening point. St. Joseph-Ogden jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never had look over their shoulder once on the way to a 25-8 finish.

"Our kids kept fighting and stayed rather stable to the end," said McDonald, who watched her team pound 24 kills. "We are playing really complete volleyball right now."

Burnett, a sophomore, led all hitters with nine kills and five digs. Payton Vallee lumped on another six. Katelyn Berry had six.

"This time of year brings out a different level of play," McDonald said. She likes the level of cohesiveness that her team is bringing to the floor. "They are really dialed in right now."

Bigger is eager to play for the title on Thursday.

"I feel like our bond is stronger than any other team," she said. "We've worked just as hard as we can to get where we want to be in the end."

The Spartans will face Monticello in an Illini Prairie Conference rematch at 6pm on Thursday.

The Sages, who advanced to the championship game after escaping a 25-21, 32-30 scare from the Tuscola Warriors, dropped the final match of the regular season to the Spartans, 25-17, 25-19.

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