Oak Harbor volleyball takes action away

A postponed Thursday evening match against Mariner no doubt gave the Oak Harbor volleyball team some needed time to breathe before this weekend’s South Whidbey Invitational Tournament.

But the team did see some action this week. Tuesday, the Cats fought a down-to-the-wire match against Jackson that had the Cats walking away tired, but with the 3-1 victory.

The Cat’s took the first game, not showing too much glitz, but keeping on their game to put it away 15-10. Sophomore Heidi McNeill showed her 6-foot, 3-inch presence at the net, often tapping in the kill or standing in for the block. Outside hitter Celeste Garey helped close the game with a cross-court spike, and her ace of a serve helped wrap game one.

Jackson’s Nicole Helmer and other heavy hitters threatened Oak Harbor’s chances in game two, but new additions to Oak Harbor’s side of the court brought in great digs by senior Yolanda Garcia that kept Jackson in line. Some heavy rally time between the two teams marked game two, and aces by Garcia, McNeill and senior Nikki Barone helped Oak Harbor grab the 15-5 win.

Game three was nabbed by Jackson who held their composure after the first two losses. The biggest gap of the game came with Oak Harbor up 12-8, other than that it was a back and forth battle of who had the narrow advantage. Jackson finally showed their wear and tear with a miscommunication that allowed the Cats to come back 14-14, but Jackson gained their composure back to take game three 14-16.

Needing to take game four to put the match away, Oak Harbor faced a 1-7 Jackson lead early in the game.

“We knew heading into game four we were not taking it to five games,” McNeill said.

Heavy hitting and blocking by senior Alicia Lancaster marked a scoring run that brought the Cats to a 7-7 tie with Jackson. Oak Harbor pulled ahead for the first time in game four at 8-7, and communications failures by Jackson allowed Oak Harbor to run. Agile net play by a revved up Oak Harbor team, and heavy hits by Rachel Pitt, Lancaster, McNeill and Garey helped the Cats steal game four 15-9.

The active night ended with McNeill claiming 20 kills; Lancaster with 9 kills, two blocks; Garey with 7 kills, 4 aces, and 27 digs; and Nikki Barone marked the night with 38 assists.

Currently 3-2 in non-league play, coach Kerri Molitor is positive about her team’s play thus far but knows it needs work.

“We’re playing pretty well, playing as a team — we’re just finding what works right now,” Molitor said.

One thing the team is searching for is blocking. They currently are without Sarah Bratt, a junior middle blocker, a “solid blocker” who is out with an injury. Molitor is also working to get her Cats consistent on offense, and have a strong transition from defense into an attack.

“We’re playing pre-season better than expected so we can just build on that in league play, and hopefully on into districts,” Molitor said.

Oak Harbor is at the South Whidbey Invitational today, and league play begins for the Cats Thursday when they play Stanwood on the road.

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