When West Ranch girls volleyball plays in games such as Tuesday night’s game against Oak Park, senior Sophie Bobal repeats the same phrase when the opposition is constantly creeping up on a lead: Stop the bleeding.
“It just kind of is a thing where it’s like, we’re both kind of going the same way, so slow down and take it one point at a time,” she said, “but once we go back to serve, let’s focus on getting a run and getting the upper hand on them and just stop it from going one by one by one.”
The Wildcats were unable to pull off a win in their season-opener, losing in five sets, but kept the Eagles contained.
West Ranch had early momentum, winning the first game 25-18. Oak Park swung the momentum their way in the second game, however, jumping out to an 8-2 lead to begin the frame.
Bobal had a trio of kills towards the end of the game and the Cats (0-1) pulled within two points of tying the game on multiple occasions, but were unable to fend off a well-rounded Eagles attack that earned a 25-23 win. Oak Park middle blocker Taylor Hunter was able to control the pace of the game and caused headaches for West Ranch.
The Eagles’ Charlize Shields, another middle, was another point of focus for the Wildcats. Shields tied the game twice early on, once on a tip and once on a block.
“She can bounce balls, it’s awesome,” Bobal said. “One of our biggest things to work on if we every play Oak Park again is to focus on her arm swing and where she’s swinging.”
Oak Park (1-0) kept it close once again in the Game 4, but West Ranch pulled ahead 19-16 thanks to an offensive outburst by outside hitter Allison Jacobs, who finished the night with 32 kills and 11 digs. The Wildcats secured the lead at that moment, then a flurry of unforced Eagles errors solidified a 25-23 win.
“It’s about as simple as it can be: Just be good to each other,” coach Jamey Ker said of the message before Game 5. “Be good teammates. We knew what we needed to do to execute, we just had to make sure that any adversity that came our way, we were good teammates to each other and held each other accountable for that.”
The final frame was close, but a double hit squandered some of the Cats’ energy as the Eagles took a 13-11 lead. Minutes later, Shields ended the night with a tip for a 15-12 Oak Park win.
West Ranch is pleased with the start to the season, though. It was an opportunity to preview a roster that includes eight experienced seniors and promising newcomers like libero Olivia Hoffman and setter/opposite Erin Eskoff.
“I think that this team is very aware of what their potential is going to be this season or what it can be this season,” said Ker.
“So because of that awareness, I kind of believe that there’s a target on our back whether that’s in our preseason or in our league matches. The girls feel like they have to go out and prove themselves every night.”
The Wildcats next play at Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks on Thursday and begin Foothill League play against Saugus on Sept. 4.