Volleyball dominates first day of Oswego State Invitational, earns wins in three straight matches after Saturday morning victory over Utica College

The Oswego State Lakers volleyball were very successful in the first day of the annual Oswego State Invitational. The Lakers were able to sweep both opponents on the day, both Hilbert College and SUNY Canton.

The matchup with Hilbert College was more of a dominating victory, taking the sets by scores of 25-4, 25-10, and 25-12. Strong serving and fantastic offensive kills were key factors in the decisive victory. Shauna O’Flaherty and Rina Qelaj led the serving effort with four and three aces, respectively.

“We were trying to rebound from a five-game losing streak, where we were playing tough teams,” head coach JJ O’Connell said. “It was nice to get everything where we could focus on us.”

Oswego State was able to jump out to an early lead in the first set, opening up the match 7-1 early lead, giving the team a great confidence boost to last throughout the rest of the set, and the match.

“It was a good confidence booster for us,” said O’Connell. “I feel that everyone played pretty well in that.”

Laura Finn was able to add seven kills to dominate the Hawks’ defense in just one more area on the court. Recovery play was also important in the victory. During many rallies, one miss-hit did not affect the Lakers’ ability to get the point. Something that O’Connell is trying to change from last year.

“Our kids hustle a lot, we’ve got a scrappy team this year,” O’Connell said. “Last year we tried to play tall and block the ball a lot. This year we’re playing more of a serving, defensive style. You’ll see a lot of ping-pong on the volleyball court this year.”

However, it wasn’t all that easy, when the Lakers faced the SUNY Canton Kangaroos for the second match of the day. Canton posed a bigger threat, and kept the sets close, winning the sets 25-18, 25-20 and 26-24.

It was in the second match where Oswego State lost a lot of momentum, and Canton led by ten points at one time. However, after Canton went on a large run, O’Connell called a timeout to figure some things out.

“[I said] just keep grinding,” O’Connell said. “[Canton] took the timeout at 19-15, I felt like we had momentum at that point. Shauna O’Flaherty, one of our new players, went back and made a nice run on her serve. We will keep fighting. We’ve got good heart on this team.”

To round out the day, Canton gave Oswego a run for their money, after being up by a considerable amount. Canton was able to push the score past the regulation 25-point victory, but to no avail, as Oswego State won 26-24.

“[Canton] just didn’t want to go away,” O’Connell said. “We got a little sloppy in the end, but with this team, they find a way to win.”

Now that the first day of the weekend tournament has concluded, the Lakers (4-6) look toward Day 2, when they face Utica College (2-8) at 11 a.m., and Elmira College (5-2) at 1 p.m.

“One of the things we’re doing is we’re actually converting some of the digs we’re getting,” O’Connell said. “We’re doing a nice job of throwing those back to the net so we can hammer them. We’re being creative and finding ways to score. We have to continue doing that.”

Oswego State was able to handle the Utica College Pioneers in the first match of the day, winning the shortened final set 15-10 to stay perfect in their own tournament.

The Lakers were up 5-0 in the fourth set of the day, looking to end the match and move on to Elmira, but the Pioneers were able to tally eight unanswered points after the Lakers fast start, and eventually holding on for a 25-18 fourth set victory.

O’Connell’s team posted 45 assists and 53 kills in the match, en route to a win over Utica and a 5-6 overall record.