Oakland downs UIC in five sets


Bohdanna Cherstylo

Sammy Condon recorded 14 kills at the game against UIC.

After dropping a drag-out fourth set, Oakland volleyball gathered itself and defeated the University of Illinois at Chicago in five sets on Friday, Oct. 7 at home.

Alli Gutschow marked her 1,000th dig, and Oakland head coach Rob Beam marked his 150th win at the school. Gutschow is the seventh player in Oakland history to break 1,000 digs, and Beam is second all-time for coaching wins at Oakland.

Oakland won the first set 25-22 and lost the second by the same margin. Things looked up for the Golden Grizzlies when they prevailed in the third 25-18.

The fourth began with Oakland up 8-4, but UIC clawed back to 13-10. Oakland timeout.

The mood changed. The Golden Grizzlies were regaining control. At 17-13 Oakland, UIC called a timeout.

The trick worked for the Flames, and they climbed to within a point of Oakland, 19-18. Oakland timeout. UIC tied it up directly after, and the match eventually was tied at 24.

UIC pushed it to 25-24. Set point.

Oakland’s Darien Bandel got a kill and tied it up at 25.

Then it was tied at 26. Oakland pulled ahead this time on a UIC attack error.

Match point, but the Flames got a kill and tied it at 27.

Then, UIC’s Darrin Rice got a service ace. After an attack error by Oakland’s Sammy Condon, the teams were headed to the fifth set.

Oakland got ahead 4-1 this time. UIC gassed it and went ahead 6-5. After the set was tight at 10-9 Oakland, the Golden Grizzlies got five in a row and won 15-9. Match.

“[Head coach Rob Beam] really wanted us to push the middles in the fifth set,” setter Jordan Lentz said.

Oakland had been using the outside hitters and right side heavily in the first four sets. The UIC blockers were used to the outside attack. For a change in the fifth, Beam pushed the attack to the middle. It worked.

More importantly, it worked after losing that long fourth set. Beam didn’t talk much at the break between the fourth and fifth sets, outside hitter Melissa Deatsch said.

“Rob kind of let us take it into our own hands,” she said. “We just kind of turned to each other and refocused and got ourselves confident . . . That’s what you need in the fifth set because it’s only 15, so there’s no time to mess around, and there’s no time for any lulls.”

Beam agreed. Limit the lulls.

“They happen to everybody,” he said. “Everybody’s good in our league. The current reporting is either the 11th or 13th best conference in the country for volleyball.”

Beam gave a shoutout to the Oakland reserves.

“Their energy level is out of the park,” he said.

For Oakland, Deatsch led with 20 kills (her first time recording 20), followed by Condon (14) and Bandel (11). Lentz put up 49 of the team’s 59 assists. She also led with 17 digs, followed by Gutschow (12). Condon and Krysteena Davis each got six block assists.

Gutschow said she wouldn’t have been able to get those 1,000 digs without her team.

“Makes a really big difference when there’s a really good solid block up,” she said. “We’ve been working a lot on our blocking. They’ve been doing phenomenal, and it makes my job so much easier.”

This team isn’t a stranger to big numbers. Melissa Deatsch recently surpassed 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, the second person in Division I Oakland history to do so. But they’re not thinking of those. They’re just playing.

“You’re just out there doing your job every day, and then the milestones just come,” Deatsch said.

Beam didn’t even realize it was his 150th win at Oakland until it was announced over the PA.