CHICAGO HEIGHTS | When a program has won five consecutive conference titles in volleyball, opponents tend to take aim against that team.
Thursday night at Bloom Trail High School, Rich Central took aim and scored big, as the Olympians jumped on a depleted Bloom Township squad to post a 25-20, 25-12 Southland Conference victory.
Olympian coach Craig Marek said it was the first time in three seasons the Olympians have defeated the Blazing Trojans, who are seeking their sixth consecutive league title. The straight-game loss dropped the Blazing Trojans record to 6-8 overall and 1-1 in the SAC, while the Olympians improved to 5-3, 2-0.
In a showdown of outside hitters, Mississippi-bound Nakeyta Clair led the Olympians with 13 kills and a service ace, while 2010 Times' Player of the Year Amber Fryer paced the Blazing Trojans with a team-high seven kills and eight digs.
The Blazing Trojans were without setter Richelle Schoon, who has been out with an ankle injury.
"We had our chances, but we've got to give Rich Central all the credit in the world," Norberg said. "They just came out and wanted it more than us."
The Olympians took charge of the match from the onset, winning 12 of the first 15 points in the first game, during which time Clair ripped four kills off sets from Daivonya High and Raven Southall, as well as added one of her three blocks for points.
The Blazing Trojans rallied in the first game, however, winning eight of 11 points late, with an unforced error by the Olympians that closed the visitors' lead to 24-20. Bria Gaines (five kills) had three straight kills during the comeback, which was ended by an unforced error that closed out the game.
The Blazing Trojans managed a 9-7 lead midway through the second game off a pair of block-kills by Justice Howard and was capped with a service ace by Mariah Middleton, but the game unraveled for the home team after that.
The Olympians ran together five points to grab the lead, with a pair of kills by Clair giving the Olympians a 17-12 lead. The Olympians won the final eight points of the match on a combination of Blazing Trojan unforced errors and the play of Clair, who closed out the match with a block for point.
"Our goal tonight was to focus on where Amber (Fryer) was tonight, and hopefully come out on top," Marek said. "And Nakeyta stepped up and showed why she is a Division I player."