2 points from defeat, O’Connor finds a way
The Alamo Convocation Center was buzzing, enthralled by the latest swing of momentum.
For O’Connor, all appeared lost. The Panthers trailed by two points, were two points from a defeat, and were facing an opponent they had already lost to four times this season.
Sophomore Bryshanna Brown put the moment in perspective.
“She told us, ‘Hey guys, this is three before two,’” O’Connor senior libero Peyton Hummel said, referring to a drill that tests players’ mettle in pressure situations and their ability to overcome deficits. “‘We do this all the time. We can do it.’”
The Panthers did it, scoring the final four points to slip past Northside ISD rival Clark 25-19, 19-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-13 Saturday in the Region IV-6A final.
O’Connor (41-11) won its second straight regional crown and secured a UIL Class 6A state tournament berth next weekend at the Culwell Center in Garland. Their state semifinal opponent will be announced Sunday.
Clark (47-4) lost for the first time since Aug. 25, snapping a 23-match winning streak that included the four wins over O’Connor.
“It’s a good feeling to go once,” O’Connor senior setter Marina De La Rosa said. “To go back twice, it’s just awesome.”
The repeat seemed unlikely when when Clark grabbed a 13-11 lead in the fifth set on a kill from sophomore Elise McGhee .
O’Connor senior middle blocker Emmy Ogogor responded with three straight kills to give her team a 14-13 lead and a match point. Ogogor then teamed with junior outside hitter Kali Nelson for a block to lock up the win, setting off celebrations on the court and in the stands.
“We just decided to get it together as a team and play like every ball is the last ball and just fight for it,” said Ogogor, who had a team-high 16 kills. “I trust everybody on the team. Everyone on the court has my back. Those two points don’t matter. It’s us competing as a team.”
Paced by 6-foot-4 senior Kara McGhee, who had a match-high 17 kills and nine total blocks, Clark rebounded after a first-set loss to take the second and third frames and move a step closer to its first state tournament berth since 2004 and seventh overall.
But O’Connor absorbed an early fourth-set charge by McGhee, who had eight kills in the stanza, to grab a 21-17 lead. Clark closed within 21-20, but two kills from Ogogor and one from Sunnie Ozment helped the Panthers even up the match.
In the fifth set, Clark led 8-5 and had a two-point edge for most of the frame before O’Connor made its winning push.
“You feel like your back is kind of up against the wall, but at the same time that’s even more motivation to take it point by point and win the next one,” Hummel said. “We knew that we were capable of doing it, and we just needed to stay composed and take care of business.”