There was only one set of numbers Oregon volleyball coach Christy Sitze was concerned with prior to Monday’s practice at the Blackhawk Center.
When asked what her team’s record was, she stated she had no clue. One of two seniors on the squad, Devyn Absher, had the same response.
Cydney Long, a junior, guessed the Hawks were 15-7 or 15-8.
The important numbers were hanging in the gym.
Behind Sitze was an already-updated banner in the gym indicating the seasons Oregon won regional championships. The Hawks accomplished that feat last Thursday in Rockford, and can now set their sights on the Class 2A Byron Sectional, where they will take on Westmont at 7 p.m. tonight, after the conclusion of the first match between Dakota and North Boone.
Oregon (26-11-1) was seeded third at the Rockford Christian Life Regional, and after a rout of South Beloit in the first round, had to do some serious heavy lifting to win its eighth regional in the past 10 years.
The Hawks, losers twice in the regular season against No. 2 seed Byron, won the match that really counted in the regional semis with a 25-19, 19-25, 25-21 decision over the Tigers.
“We just had to realize it was just another game and just play it,” Absher said.
Oregon then took on Rockford Lutheran, the regional’s top seed. The teams split matches in the regular season, but it was the Hawks who came through in the rubber match with a 24-26, 25-19, 25-23 win.
Oregon has now won 15 of its last 19 matches, and its confidence is increasing each time it takes the floor.
“They’ve been a team that has been growing throughout the season,” Sitze said. “They take every opportunity to learn more and to push harder. I’ve always known it was within their reach to be able to perform in the postseason.”
“At the end of the season we started picking it up and playing really well and together,” Absher said. “I thought we had a chance. Byron and Rockford Lutheran were both beatable, so we just had to go out there and do it.”
Oregon isn’t a team that has one go-to player, instead relying on an attack that can come from anybody at anytime. Sophomore settter Delaney Mahoney orchestrates the show as she sees fit.
“Delaney, she knows who to set at the right times,” Long said. “We can always rely on her on who to set, so it’s all good.”
“They understand it takes a whole team to be successful,” Sitze added, “and they rely on each other and lift each other up in a very encouraging way.”
Westmont drubbed Lisle 25-8, 25-22 in the finals of the Lisle Regional, and the only thing Sitze knew about her next opponent is the two schools have about the same enrollment. Oregon is at 520 and Westmont is 501, according to the IHSA schools directory.
“I don’t think right now it’s a matter of studying and scrambling all of the details about Westmont,” Sitze said. “Our key is to focus on what we do best, keep our team relying on each other and just enjoying competing.”