River Hill’s Sarah Okey has been asked over the last week how it feels starting the season as the area’s top volleyball squad. She said she’s more concerned about how the Hawks will finish.
Okey and the Hawks got an impressive start on what they hope will be a banner season, defeating No. 3 Mount de Sales Academy in four games (20-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-21) Tuesday evening in Clarksville.
Okey, a senior hitter, had 16 kills for River Hill (1-0), and Melody Nazari added nine kills, six blocks and three aces. Taylor Beaumont had 15 kills for Mount de Sales, and senior hitter Hannah Schmidt finished with 11 kills.
After a rocky start, River Hill won the final three games to claim the season-opening battle of area titans. Okey said she was impressed with how the Hawks responded.
“We’re getting use to each other, how we play, our offense and defense,” said Okey. “We had really good passing and we capitalized on that. We were a little jittery but we were aggressive those last three games.”
Hawks coach Lynn Paynter said her team was anxious to play after more than three weeks of practice. River Hill only had a playdate at Centennial to prepare for live action as Paynter said another scrimmage was cancelled.
“Our energy level was way over the top,” said Paynter, who’s in her first season as Cybil Modispacher ‘s successor on the Hawks’ bench. “We were able to calm down and start playing our game. The whole tempo switch.”
Paynter pointed to a Nazari kill block, putting River Hill up 9-7 in the second game as the momentum changer. Mount de Sales regained the lead at 11-10, but the Hawks won the next five points and never trailed again in the game.
“I guess the excitement and adrealine came right back,” said Nazari. “We stayed focus and when we’re playing as a team, it’s just not my block, it’s all of us.”
Nazari’s kill in the third game starting a five-point run, extending the Hawks’ advantage from 12-8 to 17-8. They opened the fourth game with seven straight points as Megan Rosburg added 13 kills.
Chelsea Owensby had 34 assists, and Caroline Casey finished with six kills for Mount de Sales, which won the IAAM A Conference championship and finished No. 1 in the area in 2009. Sailors coach Monica Owensby said her team made too many mistakes.
“River Hill had phenomenal passes, they were able to hide our offense better than we did,” said Owensby. “We made it too obvious because our passing was off. River Hill came at us a game and told us what we need to work on.”
The Hawks hope Tuesday is a steppingstone to a championship. River Hill has fallen short at the state Final Four the past three seasons, including a loss in the Class 2A state finals last fall.
“We know what it takes get there, now it’s about finishing,” said Okey, one of six seniors. “It’s doesn’t matter to me where we start, it matters where we end. I think this is the year.”