Park Ridge lost the first point of its Oct. 15 match, but won the next five points and never trailed again in a 2-0 (25-18, 25-11) victory over Emerson.
“We’ve been hot and cold this entire year,” said Owls coach Tara Kane. “What helped us big time is we spent the entire two-hour practice Saturday receiving balls. All we did was serve-reception, receiving balls from hits. We didn’t spike a ball; we didn’t serve a ball. It really paid off.
“The girls were in the 80th percentile with passing today, which is fantastic. Two weeks ago we were in the 30th percentile. So we’ve grown a lot with our passing, which is a key aspect because we don’t have the height that other schools have.”
Senior Nicole Banks tallied four service winners, including an ace, to break a 1-1 tie and give the Owls a 5-1 lead. She attributes her success to the ritual she performs before each serve.
“I always try to give it (the ball) to Mel (teammate Melissa Dulberg),” Banks said, laughing. “Then before I serve the ball I always have five or six bounces and then I toss the ball up and hit it. If I don’t do that I get superstitious. If I miscount or if I don’t hit it enough times I think, ‘I’m going to miss it.’ I have a rhythm and I’m really superstitious.”
The Cavos closed to 13-12 midway through the set but Owls senior Ashley Urmanowicz smacked a kill to bring Banks back to the service line. Banks promptly earned three more service winners to boost the lead to 17-12.
“I think that’s something I’ve had since I was a freshman,” said Banks of accurate serving. “It’s been one of my strengths. When I played club sophomore year, my club coach really helped me work on my serving. Ever since then I’ve been going on roll after roll.”
The Owls spread out the scoring as no less than five different players tallied at least one point in the first set. That makes it nice for junior setter Sydney Sheridan, who distributed 19 assists in the match.
“All six of us on the court can hit,” said Banks. “It’s really important because if we don’t have a perfect pass and Sydney can’t get a set to [the front row] we can rely on our back row to hit. Ashley Urmanowicz has been totally dominating from opposite all year. It’s been very helpful to have her as a secret weapon.
“Dani (Daniela Silva) is unbelievable. She’s our most dominant player at the net. When she jumps up she gets way above the net. We can always rely on her as a blocker. She’s the player to go to when we’re in a bad patch.”
Silva, who along with Banks had five kills in the match, said it is a plus to have so many players who can score.