OPRF uses height to best advantage against De La Salle

The point didn’t decide the match, De La Salle head coach Anna Maria Marassa insisted, but that doesn’t dismiss the play as a turning point in Thursday’s regional final matchup against Oak Park-River Forest.

With the game tied 14-14 in the second game and her team down a set and trailing in the second, an extended rally ended in OPRF’s favor. Marassa, however, argued with a referee that OPRF middle blocker Symone Speech lifted the ball on the way to securing the point.

Marassa crossed the 10-foot line — usually cause for an immediate yellow card — but wasn’t tagged with the penalty until tossing an OPRF player’s abandoned headband that had crossed to the De La Salle side of the court toward the scorer’s table.

OPRF went on to win the second game and the match, 25-14, 25-21, to advance to sectional play and end its Girls Catholic Athletic Conference adversary’s season at a 27-8.

“I threw it at the table, so I’m not sure why they gave me the yellow. Probably because of the throwing of the headband,” Marassa said. “He never explained it. They never discussed it, which was also inappropriate. No discussion, no anything.

“I don’t think they’ll be getting good ratings by me.”

“It was kind of close — the signal was,” OPRF head coach Don August said. “I thought the play was legal myself. When she jumped in the ref’s face and got a yellow card, we went to serve and got that point and then there was all that confusion at the same time. Once you get that sorted out, it’s just a matter of playing.”

Momentum aside, Oak Park’s formidable height advantage resulted in 10 total blocks. Add a 10-5 kill differential in favor of the Huskies and four hitting errors by De La Salle in the opening game, and top-seeded Oak Park-River Forest left the gymnasium at Reavis with a date with Downer Grove North Tuesday at Morton.

“The big difference was their inability to pass in the first game and our serving,” August said. “In the second game, they tightened up a lot on defense. Their hitting picked up and passing got better. But we won the battle at the net. We had five blocks. I don’t know if they had any, maybe one. That’s a huge difference when you start blocking their big hitters.”

Speech finished the match with a team-high six kills and two blocks, while senior outside hitter Kiley Nelson added five kills and two blocks of her own.

“I knew it would be a battle,” Marassa said. “Obviously, they’re taller than us, bigger than us. It wasn’t the best we played, but they definitely earned and won the match today.”

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