At face value, it would seem an odd request: Listen less, talk more. But that's pretty much what the Osbourn Park volleyball players' mission boiled down to in the many idle days leading up to their 3-0 win Monday against Cedar Run District challenger Stonewall Jackson.
The Yellow Jackets were instructed to try to tune out all the hype surrounding what is expected to be a stellar season. And they were instructed to talk more while practicing to improve their communication on the floor.
"For the first four or five games, everybody was telling them they were awesome," Osbourn Park Coach Kate Southcott said. "It's not good to think that you're awesome. We're not as awesome as everybody likes to tell you. You have to go out and prove it, also."
The Yellow Jackets proved it the best they could in the 25-17, 25-23, 25-19 win over Stonewall, a match postponed from Sept. 20. And one of the reasons they swept the Raiders was because the team was more verbal during the match, namely seniors Christie Kirby and Kaitlin Crutchley, who at times in previous games would both try to make a play on the same ball.
"The one 'stealing' the ball would usually make a bad play off it because they're nervous because the other person is in the corner of their eye," Southcott said. "Instead of calling it, it's 'should I/shouldn't I.' Kaitlin has to know what Kirby's capable of taking, and Kirby has to know what Kaitlin's capable of taking. It definitely was our downfall at Forest Park [in a 3-1 loss Sept. 7]. Besides mis-serves, our communication was absolutely horrible" against Forest Park.
The Yellow Jackets (5-1, 3-0) rallied from being down 22-16 to squeeze out the second game against Stonewall (6-2, 2-1). For the night, junior Ashley Ferry recorded nine kills, senior Adora Luster eight and Crutchley six. Crutchley also was perfect on 19 service attempts, with six aces. Another bright spot: Junior setter Kerry Shannon has returned from a finger injury.
"We won the game not out of power but out of consistently putting balls in play," Southcott said. "They kept rallies going until the perfect time to put the ball away."
In addition to the rematch with Forest Park on Oct. 6, the Yellow Jackets will play two other matches against state-ranked teams when they face Douglas Freeman and Mills Godwin on Oct. 16 at Forest Park. The Bruins also will play those Richmond teams that day. Freeman and Godwin are currently tied for second in the state.