OGDENSBURG — The sustained quality in the OFA Volleyball Program which features continuity at the modified, junior varsity and varsity levels has seen the Lady Blue Devils operating at the upper eschelon of the Northern Conference West Division and in Class B of the Section 10 Tournament.
Reloading or rebuilding is where coaches will find themselves every year. At OFA volleyball, the majority of the time, the team is blessed with reloading.
A quick glance at this year’s Devils indicates a rebuilding year. OFA graduated five seniors from last year’s team that went 7-0 in a condensed season which saw the Devils beat quality Massena power house twice in intense five set matchups featuring scores such as 29-27.
“Replacing players like Emily Farrand, Jordyn Tupper, Gabby Morley, Emma LeBeau and Jenna Mitchell is nearly impossible so rebuilding would seem to be where someone definitely would describe the Devils who count only one starter in the six players returning from last year’s high performing team,” said Coach Sue McLean.
However, Coach McLean is not not defining this as a rebuilding year although she says it is not quite a reloading year either.
“It seems like hybrid has been quite the word lately and although I don’t have the correct term for reloading blending with rebuilding, that is where we are. A hybrid of reload and rebuild. We have a strong nucleus to build around with Abby Raven returning in the starting lineup playing a powerful middle hitter. Abby is going to be a force at that net that other teams will have to work very hard to defend and her blocking and defensive game have been on point and her serve is extremely hard to return,” says Coach McLean who expects her returning seniors to step up and replenish the OFA ranks.
“Adding to the nucleus and making a strong core duo is setter Mallory Morley. Mallory is playing extremely well and is distributing the ball by providing quality sets to our hitters. Mallory saw quite a bit of playing time last year and worked hard to improve her game last year under the guidance of Jordyn Tupper who provided an excellent example for Mallory. Abby and Mallory will serve as captains this year for the Devils and the two of them along with returning starting libero Tristan Durand give us the complete core package to rebuild and reload around. Tristan’s confidence is staring to shine after just a few practices in the gym and she is passing the ball extremely well and controlling our defense as well as hitting a great downball from the backcourt,” says Coach McLean.
“Also returning and being called upon in different duties from last year are Aubrey Love who will play right side hitter and setter. She has a great serve and a ton of skills that make her a valuable piece of this team. Grace Hilborne returns as middle hitter and in just one week of some great one on one work, her hit is starting to pick up power and we are starting to see a peak at what she has to offer. Taryn Sholette rounds out our returners and she by far has the best attitude and is extremely coachable. Being our only lefty,Taryn will play right side as well as pick up some defensive specialist duties.”
Making the transition from JV to varsity are three juniors and two sophomores.
The juniors are: Quinn Crosson who will play setter/right side hitter, Kenzie Bucher who will play middle hitter and Emma LaFlair who will be called upon to play outside hitter. Sophomores Julia Kelso and Tava Colburn have impressed their coach by catching on to the varsity game speed quickly. These two should both see time playing outside hitters and according to Coach McLean have skills that “we are just tapping into.”
“We have to continue to work hard throughout the year to be sure we peak at the right time and work on our communication as that is the key to team performance. I am always proud to say I coach the Devils,” says Coach McLean.
“The OFA blue collar mentality of hard work and commitment is alive and well on the volleyball court and they are giving 100 per cent effort 100 per cent of the time working together constantly.”
OFA will play in the seven team West Division with Canton, Gouverneur, Madrid Waddington, Potsdam, Clifton-Fine and Edwards-Knox. The Devils open their season tonight against Gouverneur.
The East Division features Brushton-Moira, Chateaugay, Franklin Academy, Massena, Salmon River and Tupper Lake.
OFA will open the 2021 season on Wednesday hosting Gouverneur in a West Division matchup. In the Section 10 Tournament OFA will be looking to defend their Class B titles of 2019 and 2018 against Malone. Massena is the only Class A team and Canton, Potsdam and Salmon River compose the Class C field. The Class D brackett includes Brushton-Moira, Chateaugay, Madrid-Waddington, Tupper Lake, Clifton-Fine and Edwards Knox
In the Regional Playoffs Section 10 will host Section 7 for Class B, C and D and the 10/7 winner will travel to Section 2 for the regional semi-finals. In Class A Section 10 will host Section 3 with 10/3 winner traveling to Section 2 for the regional finals.
NOTE: Girls volleyball is an indoor sport and the most-recently issued guidelines from the CDC mandate masks for all competitors, coaches, meet officials and spectators. Maintaining social distancing will also be a requirement.