Girls volleyball: Ottawa rallies in both sets to top Morris

Members of the Ottawa volleyball team react after scoring a point against Morris on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023 in Kingman Gym at Ottawa High School.

OTTAWA – The Ottawa volleyball team is in the midst of one of the best starts in program history, relying on great hustle, few attack mistakes and a quality service game.

The Pirates turned to senior Cheyenne Joachim to provide the latter Tuesday during a 25-20, 25-23 Interstate 8 Conference victory over a tough Morris squad at Kingman Gymnasium.

Joachim recorded 11 service points, an ace and eight digs as she rallied Ottawa twice with a big serving run in the first set and served two more points that closed out the match as the Pirates (16-3, 2-0 I-8) came from behind in both sets to thwart Morris (9-5, 0-3).

“I just tried to serve aggressively trying to get the ball in play and my team helped me get the job done from there,” Joachim said. “We’re off to a great start this season. We have a lot of team chemistry, and it’s so nice to see us playing so well where I can do my part to help us win.”

Morris's Ava Smith spikes the ball to Ottawa opponents Alya Dorsey and Chey Joachim on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023 in Kingman Gym at Ottawa High School.

Ottawa also got strong performances from senior Ryleigh Stevenson (team-best eight kills, four block assists), senior Olivia Evola (four kills, seven assists), junior Skylar Dorsey (nine assists) and senior Reese Burgwald (eight digs) as the Pirates committed a mere 10 attack errors on the night with Joachim helping lead the winning charge.

“These kids have been working for years to get to this point of such success, and it’s all coming together,” Ottawa coach Jenn Crum said. “Cheyenne [Joachim] has a knack for going back behind the line, pulling us out of jams, and it’s not the first time she’s served so well this season.”

Morris received a match-best 11 kills from senior Ava Smith, seven off the hands of senior Aubrey Phillips and six from classmate Emma Leavitt. Alyssa Jepson added 11 digs, while Mia Olvera dished up nine assists. But the visitors committed 22 attack errors and couldn’t sustain the momentum they earned throughout the two sets in order to put the Pirates away.

“If there’s one thing we’ve struggled with this season it’s not being the team to close out wins,” Morris coach Scott Howell said. “We committed too many errors again, and in every one of our five losses we’ve missed too many serves, missed too many attack attempts and that just has hurt us like it did again tonight.”

Morris held a 17-14 lead in the first set before Joachim went on an 8-0 service run that included a pair of left-side kills from Stevenson that put Ottawa in front 22-17.

“I knew I had to get us back on track after we hadn’t had the lead at all in the first game,” Joachim said. “I thought after that rally we had some good momentum.”

Ottawa's Skyler Dorsey sets the ball in the air as Morris's Aubrey Phillips and teammate Ava Smith try to hit it back over the net on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023 in Kingman Gym at Ottawa High School.

The Pirates received a key kill from Ayla Dorsey and a push-kill into Morris’ back row on set point to grab the opening set after the big rally.

The second set was all Morris early on. Morris led 13-7 after a right-side kill from Ayla Phillips.

But Ottawa slowly chipped away at the deficit and tied the set at 23-all after a middle kill from junior Addison Duggan.

Joachim took to the service line again and recorded the final two points of the match after a right-side winner from Evola and a hitting error by Morris that ended the proceedings in style for the home squad.

“It felt great to come from behind in both sets to get another big win, especially a conference win against Morris,” Joachim said. “We’ve played every game this season like we want to show how good a team we are, and we aren’t going to stop anytime soon.”