|Father Ryan High School won the 2015 Division II-AA volleyball state championship with a victory over Briarcrest in the title match on Friday, Oct. 23. It was Father Ryan’s first state championship in volleyball since 2006. Ryan senior Lauren Dorrell, 21, who was named the tournament Most Valuable Player, and Anna Hardin, 1, converge on the ball. Photos by Andy Telli
Late in the championship match for the Division II-AA volleyball state tournament, Father Ryan High School was closing in on its first state championship since 2006. Senior Olivia Rolick was thinking one thing: “Just finish and celebrate.”
She and her Irish teammates did just that knocking off Briarcrest Christian School in four sets, 25-22, 23-25, 25-16, 25-21. It was Father Ryan’s fifth state championship in volleyball, following titles in 1992, 1994, 2004 and 2006.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Ryan senior Lauren Dorrell, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
In the first match of the tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Briarcrest had beaten Ryan in three sets, 25-21, 25-16, 25-19. “We knew on Wednesday we didn’t play very well,” Dorrell said.
“We dug a hole, we got down. We were still not with it on Wednesday,” Ryan Coach Jinx Cockerham said. “We had a tough time getting into our offense.”
The Irish rebounded just in time in their next match against St. Agnes. Father Ryan was down two sets to none when they roared back to win the final three sets and take the match.
That victory sent them into a rematch of last year’s state championship match against Baylor. Again the Irish dropped the first two sets and were on the brink of elimination.
|Seniors Gracie Larkin and Maxi Edwards, 7, celebrate.
“We were able to get it back,” Cockerham said. “We upped our level.”
The Irish won the last three sets 25-23, 25-16, 15-12 to win the match and claim a rematch with Briarcrest with a state championship on the line.
The Irish learned from last year’s experience losing the championship match. “Last year we were all just a bag of nerves,” Rolick said.
“Having seven seniors on a team who didn’t want to go home with a runner-up trophy like last year” proved the difference, Cockerham said.
Losing to Briarcrest on the first day “made us more humble,” Dorrell said.
The experience playing in five-set matches also helped. Those types of matches gave the team the stamina to keep playing, Rolick said. “It helps you stay in tough games.”
“It made us clutch,” Dorrell said.
In the championship match, “We served the ball very well,” Cockerham said. “We were able to receive the ball, set the ball and get the ball where we wanted it.”
Dorrell led the Irish with 30 kills in the match, including the final two points. Late in the match, Dorrell took the initiative to rotate to the front line to put herself in the position to deliver the winning points, Cockerham said, and junior setter Maggie Thompson, “kept getting it to her. And the passes were good.”
“Olivia Rolick was all over the place,” Cockerham added. “She played great defense. … I think overall everybody contributed their role.”
Coming into the tournament, Father Ryan was the underdog, Rolick said. “We love proving people wrong,” Dorrell added.