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Lady Bears win state volleyball championship in a thriller

Oskaloosa senior Hailey Kelly jumped into the arms of junior Haley Pfau after the Lady Bears evened the Class 2A Championship match 1-1 on Saturday in Emporia against second seed Oberlin-Decatur Community. The Lady Bears came from behind in the third game to win the title. Oskaloosa senior Hailey Kelly jumped into the arms of junior Haley Pfau after the Lady Bears evened the Class 2A Championship match 1-1 on Saturday in Emporia against second seed Oberlin-Decatur Community. The Lady Bears came from behind in the third game to win the title.

Story and photos by Dennis Sharkey

Getting to the state tournament wasn’t hard for the 2010 Lady Bears but getting to the championship trophy proved to be much harder.

Last year the Lady Bears made it to the state tournament but made an early exit.

Head Coach Tosha Landau

Head Coach Tosha Landau

This year the team came into the season with expectations and a state top three ranking to live up to and there were some bumps along the way through the regular season.Heading into last weekend’s substate in Leavenworth the team had lost 10 matches and seeded second. Head Coach Tosha Landau said after the tournament that her team felt a little slighted and looked forward to facing number one seed Burlingame in the finals.

For junior Lakin Thompson it was extra special because it would be her first time facing her former school. Thompson transferred to Oskaloosa last year and completed her first season with the Bears.

“It felt great but it was kind of weird playing against all of my old friends,” Thompson said “I was happy I was on the opposite side.”

Heading into pool play on Friday the Lady Bears were seeded fifth and in the same bracket as number one seed Greensburg-Kiowa County. The girls caught a break and faced bottom seed Howard-West Elk in their first game.

After breezing through sub-state and not having to play a third and decisive game in any match, things would change.

Oskaloosa volleyballAfter having the scored tied at 18-18 the Lady Bears finally pulled away to win the first game 25-19. However, the Lady Bears would come out flat and play catch-up for most of the second game before losing 17-25. It was the first time in the post-season the Lady Bears would have to play a third game. But the ladies came out focused in the third game and ran away 25-11.

The Lady Bears would watch Greensburg easily dispose of Howard-West Elk in the tournament’s next match before playing against fourth seed Inman in their next match. The Lady Bears won the first game easily 25-17 but had to fight to close out Inman 25-22.

Landau said the team’s goal before the tournament was to at least finish in the top three. A win against top seed Greensburg would guarantee a chance.

The Lady Bears built an early lead but Greensburg came back to tie the score 18-18. Both teams took turns gaining a one point advantage before Oskie broke through for a 30-28 win in the first game.

However, the Lady Bears came out flat in game two and fell behind early and never recovered. Oskaloosa lost game two 19-25.

In game three the Lady Bears took an early lead but allowed Greensburg to tie the game at 6-6. But the Lady Bears would pull away and bury Greensburg 25-11.

Now with the pretournament goal in sight, junior Haley Pfau said the team upped the ante.

“Our confidence went way up,” Pfau said. “We knew if we played as we can and played as a team that we could do really good.”

At 3-0 the Lady Bears were the only team to move on to the semi-finals without a loss.

Championship

by Dennis Sharkey

Winning a championship in any sport is hard and the Oskaloosa volleyball team didn’t make it look easy.

After easily beating Plainville in the semi-finals 25-18, 25-15, the Lady Bears faced a match-up with second seed Oberlin-Decatur Community who also easily beat top seed Greensburg.

The first game of the match set the tone for the Lady Bears playing from behind for most of the match. When the Lady Bears were able to tie the match Oberlin would find a way to scratch out a couple of points and take a short lead.

The Lady Bears fought back and tied the game at 21-21 before taking their first lead of the game at 22-21. Oskaloosa added another point and Oberlin called a time out. The move worked and the Lady Red Devils would tie the game at 24-24 before scoring the next two points to win. The Lady Bears faced a must-win after one game.

“We knew we had to talk and get ourselves back up and focused,” junior Haley Pfau said. “We knew we had to do what we can to come back.”

Pfau said her teammates told each other to shake it off when a bad play occurred and to make up for it somewhere else.

“We were a little down but we knew we could get our focus back,” Pfau said. “We knew if we got ourselves back together we would be okay.”

The will of the Lady Bears would be tested in the second game when they would fall behind 14-19 and it appeared Oberlin was in control. Landau called a time out to get her team focused.

“They did a good job of staying mentally tough and not giving up,” Landau said.

“We had a really good aggressive offense and we weren’t using it,” she added. “The girls did a good job of stepping up and getting our passes to our setters. We knew if we stayed aggressive at the net and kept swinging at it, it would fall.”

The Lady Bears fought back and tied the game at 20-20 and then volleyed back and forth until they gained their first lead at 24-23 and finally winning 26-24 and sending the match to game three.

The Lady Bears built an early 11-7 lead but Oberlin came storming back to eight straight points to take a 11-15 advantage. Again Landau called time out and the Lady Bears regrouped.

Sensing that the team needed to get fired up, the Oskaloosa crowd began getting louder and the noise progressed as the ladies came back to tie the score at 17-17 and eventually a 19-17 lead.

Oberlin came back to tie the score at 19-19 but the Lady Bears three straight points and won 25-21.

During the entire three games Landau said she never felt at ease.

“I didn’t feel comfortable during the entire match,” Landau said. “I wasn’t worried and I never lost hope. I knew they could get it done.”

Putting away the Lady Red Devils was not easy.

“They stuck with it and they were a great defensive team,” junior Lakin Thompson said. “We just had to do what we had to do and push them.”

Landau said getting pool play over with early on Friday was also an advantage because it allowed her team to watch games in the other bracket.

“Once we saw who the competition was going to be we knew we could beat everyone here,” Landau said. “It was a very realistic goal after we left yesterday.”

Thompson said after the game that in hindsight, transferring to Oskaloosa last year was the best thing that could have happened.

“I love the team spirit we have here,” Thompson said. “I love it here.”

Oskaloosa senior Kristin Brey spikes the ball across the net during a semi-final match versus Plainville.

Oskaloosa senior Kristin Brey spikes the ball across the net during a semi-final match versus Plainville.

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