by Kyle Koso
When a team is properly focused on the big picture, a few smears and ink spills really don’t matter that much.
Coping with occasional setbacks served the OTVA 14 Elite team well on Sunday at the Triple Crown NIT, as the squad from Florida earned a spot in the 14 Elite semifinals with a 25-21, 25-22 victory over Houston Skyline. OTVA will face Arizona Storm Thunder at 7:30 on Monday for a berth in the championship match.
The first and foremost threat to OTVA’s fortunes came in the first set, when a (hotly contested) rotation error, a Skyline ace and another kill shot cut the lead to 17-15. Things felt wobbly for a few minutes, but two well-placed tip shots from Izzy Mogridge and Lily Hayes closed out the set and allowed OTVA to regain its footing.
“We’ve learned to push past those moments. It’s going to happen, and we can’t let that get to us,” said Hayes, who ended the match with a thumping kill shot. “We come back and fight, get the momentum back so we can play like we did. The first day of the tournament was really iffy for us (going 1-2 overall). We came out today and showed teams what we really are.”
The second set was more back-and-forth, with Houston Skyline muscling up on kills from Bailey Warren and Bayleigh Minor and taking their first lead of the match at 10-9. A kill from Bella Pereira pushed OTVA back up 14-11, but Skyline countered and held a 21-18 lead as tension began to mount.
After a timeout, OTVA scored six straight points, getting some dynamite serves from libero Myah Typrowicz, and Kaylee Peper did some hard work on the block as well to help secure the win.
“The Kansas City tournament helps me and the team prepare for JO’s and AAU, which is our big thing,” said Mogridge, who flashed skill and touch at every position on the floor. “The energy is so great on the court, and I love controlling the court and the flow … that’s so good. We were able to slow down and focus on one serve-receive pass, and it goes from there.”
OTVA head coach Laura Stegenga said her team sometimes goes quite when adversity starts to mount, but Sunday showed her roster looking comfortable in urging each other onward. There’s certainly enough muscle and speed to make OTVA a threat Monday as well.
“It’s important for our girls to have a lot of communication when things aren’t going well. If you allow negative things to accumulate, that’s what kills you,” she said. “They had to keep their head up and focus on the next play, which is something they are learning. I’m not a fan of one player being set the ball every single time. Skyline had bigger girls than us, so we had to all stay involved to break up the block and give our outsides more of a look.”