OTTAWA — There's defense, and then there's defense that one team has an answer for. On Tuesday night, the former was played by home-standing Ottawa, the latter by rival powerhouse La Salle-Peru.
While defensive efforts on either side of the net caused their opponents to alter their plans of attack away from the heavily guarded middle of the net, the Lady Pirates struggled to find an alternative on the perimeter. Meanwhile, L-P turned to sophomore Kamryn Olson.
With the Lady Cavaliers holding a mere 5-4 lead in the opening set, an Olson kill for sideout and two subsequent blasts helped give the visitors a more comfortable lead that her six kills in the game made into a solid win.
She added three more kills in the second set, including the match-ender, as the visitors came away from Kingman Gym with a 25-15, 25-15 decision over their feisty hosts.
Ottawa's Jenna Nink posted a key second-set service run, Grace Reinhardt fired off a team-high five kills and strong defense helped keep their locals competitive, but Olson and L-P's defense were just a little stronger.
"To be honest, I feel this was one of the most solid defensive efforts we've had. Our serve receive was really phenomenal," said Ottawa coach Jenn Crum, her club now 7-13, 1-1 in the NIB 12. "We did need to make some adjustments when they were swinging outside and we talked in the huddle about where we wanted to go defensively, where we wanted to shift to, but I don't know if we maintained that the entire match. It was a little inconsistent ... and there were time when we let them get on a roll, and that's what we have to minimize.
"But for the most part, I'm really proud of the way the girls stepped up to play this game against a really solid L-P team ... We're starting games stronger and maintaining it deeper into games, but the girls do not give up, ever."
Two points by Molly Harris gave OHS a lead and after a short L-P run, a kill by Grace Reinhardt pulled the home team within that single point, before Olson came alive for a 9-4 Cavs edge. Despite the solid Ottawa defense and several L-P service errors, the Lady Cavs (12-1, 3-0) picked their way out to leads of 15-8, 18-11, 20-12 and 22-13 before closing it out.
The roll continued through a six-point service burst by Melissa Trilikis, half of her game-best total, to start Game 2. But down 7-1, Ottawa's Nink suddenly got hot at the line and, after a sideout kill by Nikki Fahrion, reeled off the next six points of her own to put the Lady Pirates in front by one.
But that's where the rally ended. A kill for sideout by Olson and a five-point serving run by Anna Jereb quickly widened the gap back out to 13-8. Two block-kills and a kill on an overpass by L-P's 6-1 middle Marisa Guisti took that advantage out to an insurmountable 21-13.
"Coming in here, depth perception is very tough and we had a little trouble on serve receive, especially when No. 17 (Nink) got on a roll," said L-P coach Mark Haberkorn. "She served well, served deep, served short. We got on our heels and Ottawa took advantage in the inconsistency of our serve receive ... We missed four serves in the first set and we haven't missed four in a match all season. It's about depth perception. It's tough in here.
"Our front row and back row defense have been strong all season, but we've been really stressing our (front row) offense, moving the ball around, getting more people involved and that's a big factor why we're getting better all the time ... Olson has been steady all year, too, night in and night out, serve receive, serving, she's been a cornerstone for this team."