LANSING | Oak Forest demonstrated Thursday against T.F. South that sometimes a slow and steady approach can prove effective in sports.
The Bengals elevated their all-around volleyball performance after a spirit-crushing first game and went on to defeat the Rebels 21-25, 25-22, 25-14. Thursday's match marked the eighth time this season that South (9-16) has fallen to a South Suburban Conference foe.
Oak Forest improved to 17-12 overall following the victory and grabbed its ninth SSC triumph of the year.
Season records initially seemed irrelevant, though, given the even play early on and the inability of either side to take command. After several lead changes, the Rebels finally used a late 9-4 run to gain control of the first game.
South's defense flourished with several blocks at the net to open the second game, and the Rebels quickly gained a 10-5 edge. However, the Bengals responded with a 13-5 run that ultimately sealed the game for the visitors as South failed to grab the lead again.
The deciding game featured Oak Forest surging to a 14-7 advantage from which it never looked back. The home team struggled to recapture its earlier flow but tried to remain competitive.
Key players for the Rebels included Brittany Krusza (10 kills), Alexis Ayar (six kills), Gabbe Mullen (22 assists) and Montana Martinez (16 digs).
Rebels coach Kim Sands acknowledged the switch in momentum during the third game.
"We didn't have a strong drive and definitely weren't as tough as (we were in) the first two games, which crippled us," she said. "We needed to be a little more aggressive at the net and defensively.
"We have a big tournament (at Lincoln-Way Central) this weekend, so hopefully the girls come out and (are ready to) win."
On the visitors' side, the Bengals received strong outings from Emily Ellis (six blocks, 12 kills), Morgan Anderson (seven blocks), Bridget Giblin (13 assists) and Sarah O'Keefe (13 assists).
Oak Forest coach Abby Nelson attributed the Bengals' success this season to how much her players have trusted the team's training methods.
"We've worked (all year) on ball control and on fine-tuning our skills," Nelson said. "Mentally, we stayed with it (today) after losing the first (game).
"We still have matches to focus on, though, and have to carry (the way we practice) over to our game play."