Deer Lakes volleyball rolls past TJ
The remaining teams in the WPIAL Class AA boys volleyball playoffs may want to move into the slow lane. No. 3 seed Deer Lakes is cruising along in pursuit of the program’s fifth WPIAL title.
The host Lancers took just 55 minutes to down No. 6 Thomas Jefferson, 3-0, Wednesday in a quarterfinal match.
“We came out and tried to take control of each game and play our game,” Deer Lakes coach Zak Roberts said. “I thought we played well. I certainly think it wasn’t our best match, and we can play better. We have to play better to stay on this track.”
After a first-round bye, Deer Lakes advanced to play the winner of Beaver County Christian and OLSH in Tuesday’s semifinal round at North Allegheny.
One might argue Roberts’ point as his Lancers came out and played aggressive at the net from the beginning but also exuded a business-like confidence that they carried with them the entire match.
“We moved into this year and we like to use the ‘F’ word as our go-to (word), and that ‘F’ word is focus,” Roberts said. “We can’t let outside sources impact what we do on the court.”
Deer Lakes (12-3) did just that. The Lancers came out a bit rusty compared to a Thomas Jefferson (9-6) team that beat Bishop Canevin, 3-0, on Tuesday. After tying the game 2-2, Deer Lakes rattled off four quick points to take a 7-3 lead early in the first set. It was 6-foot-4 sophomore Tyler Osselborn’s presence at the net that gave the Jaguars fits from the beginning. After senior Kaleb Jewel’s four-point run to bring the score to 19-12, the Lancers closed out the first set 25-17.
“It was exciting. It was a fun game, and I think we’re ready for states,” Osselborn said. “We were definitely putting balls away, but it started with all the passes and great sets from Josh (Noble).”
Osselborn finished the match with 12 kills, and Dan Hutchinson led the Lancers with 16.
“That’s a very good team we went up against,” Thomas Jefferson coach Ron Kelly said. “(Osselborn) is a really good player, and we had a hard time stopping him.”
The second set consisted of a series of long runs that started with Hutchinson who gave the Lancers an early lead at 4-0. Jewel stacked another four-point run to put Deer Lakes up 10-5 before Noble went on a six-point run to extend the Lancers’ lead to 17-7. The second set ended when Osselborn spiked a ball off the face of Thomas Jefferson senior libero Jared Kelly to punctuate the second-set win at 25-16.
The Jaguars came out in the third set stymied. Jewel went on an 11-point run as the Lancers pulled away 13-2.
“We try to space some of our guys out and always have an aggressive serve,” Roberts said. “When you can serve well and take the other team out of their offense, it’s going to open up so much more.”
Osselborn put the Lancers up 16-4 before Noble put together a four-point run to bring the score to 20-5. The Jaguars clawed back to make it 23-11 before Jewel polished them off for a 25-11 win.
“We’re going to go home tonight and celebrate this victory and come back tomorrow and get to work,” Roberts said. “It’s only going to get harder as the road goes on.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.