Tuesday evening brought me to Gorder Gymnasium where I covered Fargo Oak Grove’s 3-0 volleyball victory over Barnesville (Minn.). This post will be a synopsis of some observations I took from the match – most notably that the Grovers are in great shape to make another run in North Dakota Class B, Region 1.
Below are a few reasons that make Oak Grove a serious contender this fall:
1. Grovers are off to a nice start
Seven matches is a small sample size, but Oak Grove has started off 6-1 and has only dropped two sets all season, which was a 2-0 loss to Northern Cass at a tournament in Gardner. Oak Grove’s Region 1 home opener is Sept. 19 when it hosts defending state champions Kindred at 7:30 p.m.
2. New coach Jennifer Lopez
I spoke with Lopez, a former Summit League Player of the Year winner at North Dakota State, before and after the match against the Trojans to get her early season evaluation of her team as well as her thoughts on coaching. Lopez has a high volleyball IQ and it seems to be a natural fit for her to become a coach. She has a history of coaching Oak Grove’s players in the school’s Junior Olympic travel team as well. Junior setter Kirsten Bokinskie said Lopez knows how to play and coach every position, which is a plus.
3. Experience returns
Seven seniors (Jenna Zaeske, Hannah Kelley, Symone Jacobs, Rachel Osmundson, Sam Kounovsky, Taylor Lang and Jordyn Dixon) highlight Oak Groves varsity roster. Only three underclassmen are on the varsity.
4. Multiple offensive weapons
Oak Grove’s depth on the front row helped them contend in 2012 and the same appears to be true for the 2013 squad. The Grovers had six players with five or more kills in the victory over Barnesville. Kelley led the way with 10 kills. Serving also plays a big role in the Grovers’ offense. Bokinskie posted five of Oak Grove’s 11 ace serves on Tuesday.
5. Oak Grove made a run in 2012
Region 1 may be the toughest region to come out of in the state. Perennial powers like Kindred and Central Cass have played the role of favorites quite well the last several years. Oak Grove finished the 2012 season 31-7 after a 3-0 loss to Kindred in the Region 1 championship match. The Grovers’ biggest win of the season was a 3-2 victory over Central Cass (defending state champions at the time) in the Region 1 semifinals. A large number of players that were on the 2012 team are back and eager to find their way back to a state tournament qualifying match.