by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley volleyball team has looked really strong so far in the 2021 season.
That was no different in its Tuesday night game against Oak Park.
The Eagles easily won the first two sets, but got an unexpected challenge from the Oakies in the third. The visitors jumped out to a 6-0 lead and looked like they might have a chance to win at least one set.
However, because of the serving of junior Dru Iles and the clutch play of senior outside hitter Olivia Williams, the Eagles withstood Oak Park’s late push to get back in the game and came away with a 25-14, 25-9, 25-19 victory to improve to 5-0 on the season.
So what’s been the key to the Eagles fast start?
“The girls work well together and they want to win,” Squires said. “It’s showing. I think we just need to keep the positivity on the court and the want to win. It will pay off.”
Grain Valley made it look easy in the first two sets. After winning the first set by 11 points, the Eagles ran away with the second set. Behind the serving of Williams, Grain Valley went on a big run that was aided by miscues from the Oakies.
Just when it appeared Grain Valley was going to coast to a three-set victory, Oak Park put up a challenge, going up 6-0 as the Eagles looked like it had some communication errors at times. After Oak Park went ahead 12-6 after a serve that went out of bounds for Grain Valley, a Williams kill sparked an 8-0 run.
“I think we had it in our minds that we were going to win that third set, and we didn’t come out as strong as we should have,” Iles said. ”It’s all about playing your best at all times and I don’t think we did that in the third set.”
During that span, Williams had a pair of kills that are called Tonya tips. It’s a short shot that lands just over the net on the opposite side. She did that pair of times to catch the Oakies off guard.
“Our passing and our serving got better, and moving more,” Williams said of what the team did differently during the 8-0 run. “Honestly, we actually started trying. We weren’t before.”
Added Squires: “Olivia is a real athlete. She hustles for every ball and works hard in every single practice. She just loves the game and it shows.”
Meanwhile Iles helped get the team back on track in the third set as the Eagles went ahead 14-12 that was capped by an ace on a serve that found open space in the middle of the Oak Pak defense. Grain Valley never trailed after the run.
“I think my serving is getting better and a lot more consistent,” Iles said. “It felt really good to get all those serves.”
Although the Eagles had some mistakes on their end during the third game, Squires had to give credit to the Oakies for putting up a strong fight despite losing the first two sets by a big margin.
“Oak Park came out to play in that third set. They wanted to get a win under their belt,” Squires said. “They weren’t quitting. That says a lot about their team.”
Junior Adeyn Bybee led Grain Valley with 11 kills, Addison Baumgartner and Iles were tied for the team lead in aces with five each and senior Kellie Overturf led with nine blocks.