Oak Forest’s Sylvia Rodriguez dominant in playoff win

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After Oak Forest captain and libero Sylvia Rodriguez missed practices Friday and Saturday due to a bout with strep throat, Bengals coach Amanda Brown gave her some extra rest during the first set in Monday’s Class 4A Marist Regional opener against Eisenhower.

After Oak Forest’s back row defense struggled in the first set loss, the rest came to an end.

When Rodriguez was restored to the lineup, so was order as the passing got crisper, the sets more confident and the hitting pretty impressive in a 15-25, 25-23, 25-13 Bengals victory.

Alex Lambros had 12 kills, Jenna Brown eight kills and seven digs and Alyssa Kolecki 16 assists as Oak Forest (12-24) advanced to Tuesdaynight’s regional semifinals and a date with host Marist.

Malika Johnson (6 kills), Alexis Reed (5 kills) and Kortney Chase (20 digs) paced Eisenhower (9-18) in Stan Natonek’s final match as the head coach. Natonek said he will continue to coach the boys program at Eisenhower.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, finished with just five digs for the Bengals, but her presence in the back row in Sets 2 and 3 made swinging a little less comfortable for Eisenhower.

Actually, it wasn’t even the Cardinals hitters as much as their servers who stung Oak Forest. Kristen Chase alone had six aces, while bad passes resulted in eight Bengals unforced errors.

“She missed the practices and we should have been able to go ahead and take care of business,” Brown said about Rodriguez’ absence. “The other two people are just as capable of passing the ball.

“We have confidence in all of our players and we want to give opportunities to girls who work hard at practice every day. We obviously didn’t show up quite ready to play. A couple of bad passes at the beginning kind of set the tone.”

Rodriguez returned to serve at the start of Set 2, and sent a ball over the net that could not be returned by the Cardinals. Alex Lambros followed with a kill.

The second set would develop into a back-and-forth battle, with Eisenhower rallying from a 22-17 deficit to tie it at 23-all. A service error by the Cardinals however, put Oak Forest at set point, and Ana Lambros converted on a kill for the Bengals.

The third set was a runaway, as Alex Lambros opened with a kill, and Kolecki went on a six-point service run. Kolecki would also provide a few perfect quick sets to Alex Lambros for reverberating straight-down kills.

“I love that quick set,” Labros said, laughing. “That’s my set. I don’t know what was going on, really (in Set 1), but we came back and in the third game we took it home.”

As for Rodriguez, aside from shoring up the defense she also whistled two consecutive ace serves to help close it out.

“It hurt a little bit,” Rodriguez said of sitting. “I wanted to do my job and pick everybody up. When I got back on the court I wanted to have some fun with it.”

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