Gracie LaForge and her Grain Valley High School volleyball teammates were not going to be denied in a season-opening contest against Fort Osage Thursday night that had the atmosphere of a playoff game.
“What a way to start the season,” official Don Bickham said as he left the court following a 25-18, 14-25, 25-14 Eagles win. “One of the best environments I’ve been in. This was a fun way to get the season going.”
Players and coaches from both teams agreed as members of the Indians junior varsity and C teams kept the Grain Valley gymnasium lively with their creative cheers.
“I loved those Indian girls,” said Grain Valley libero Sydney Slaven, who made a diving dig in the deciding third set to help give her team a 24-18 lead. “I was listening to them and I wanted to start dancing.
“We play so many matches without many fans and tonight their fans and our student section really had a lot of fun and created a great atmosphere. This was a great way to start the season!”
LaForge, the Eagles’ middle hitter who tied teammate Karly Tharp with six kills, helped Grain Valley overcome an early 4-0 Fort Osage lead in the deciding game as she had three early kills and an ace that set the stage for an 8-0 Eagles run.
“We just had to come out strong in the third game and find a way to win after they pretty much dominated us in the second game,” LaForge said. “They’re such a good team. We split with them last week at their jamboree, and we knew it was going to be tough tonight.
“I loved the enthusiasm they brought. Their players sitting behind our bench were having such a good time. It was so loud tonight we had a hard time communicating out on the court. It was a great atmosphere and I am so glad we were able to come back and win.”
Grain Valley outside hitter Morgan Scott, who like LaForge and Tharp is a senior, said it was easy to play an uptempo match with that atmosphere.
“This was so much fun,” said Scott, who had three late kills in the third game. “We’re all diving all over the place, making sure we get to every ball, and we played well on the front line, too. I love this team and our fans. Our fans really inspired us tonight!”
The fans made a big impact on the coaches from each team, too.
“You know, we started the season at Winnetonka Tuesday and we had the same kind of enthusiastic support,” said Fort Osage coach Vanessa Gage, whose Indians are 0-2, losing two three-game matches. “We’re playing hard, working hard and having fun. Tonight was amazing. Our girls and their student section were cheering for their teams – not cheering against the opponent – and that makes for a fun night.”
Eagles coach Keri Peterson agreed.
“What an awesome atmosphere,” Peterson said. “We played so well the first game, then took a step back in the second. We came out strong in the third game with Gracie getting us off to a strong start. I was very happy with the way all our girls played.”
Fort Osage sophomore middle hitter Kendra Siefker enjoyed the challenge of playing against LaForge, Tharp and Scott on the front row.
“They have such a great team, and Gracie is a great player,” said Siefker, who led all players with 11 kills. “We didn’t win, but this was such an exciting night. I thought our fans and our girls were amazing. They really supported us and that made us play even harder.
“We’re going to keep playing hard and we’re going to win some matches.”