Riverside and Ben Franklin experienced first-game jitters in Tuesday’s season-opener in Reserve.
Ben Franklin just handled them a little better to take a three-game sweep in a hard-fought battle over the Rebels.
The Falcons built a substantial lead in all three games, then had to fend off late rallies by a talented but young Rebels team to win 25-22, 25-17, 26-24.
Falcons junior standout Allison Olsonoski, the lone starter returning from last year’s quarterfinalist squad, led her team with 18 kills, Kaitlyn Dent had 12 kills, Victoria Tidwell had five aces and Claire Molaison had 25 assists.
After an error-filled first game for both teams, Olsonoski took control in the second game, pounding nine of her kills. She scored four in a row to help the Falcons build a 9-2 lead. Then, with Tidwell serving, she played the middle to near-perfection, scoring four more kills as Franklin pulled to a 17-2 lead.
“That was amazing,” Olsonoski said. “I just fed off of my team. They were cheering really loud, and it really got us going. “I was happy for a first game, with one returning starter,” Pulizzano said. “We let them come back on us, which is just something that happens. They’re scrappy and very intense. I was surprised at how (solid) they are.”
Coming off what was arguably its best season in school history, with a trip to the Division IV semifinals where they lost to eventual state champion Notre Dame, Riverside was set to prove that it was not a one-hit wonder. Then came the offseason, when Rebels coach Chelsey Nicholas saw her best player graduate, then three projected starters transfer to other schools. There are certainly holes to fill.
But the Rebels showed flashes of last year’s brilliance. After falling behind 5-0 in the first game, Riverside battled back to tie the game at 15, then at 19 and 21. But too many errors proved costly.
With Olsonoski controlling the tempo in the second game, Riverside never threatened in that one. But the third game was a battle. After falling behind early, the Rebels fought back to tie at 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24. The final three points of the game were decided on umpires’ calls that could have gone either way.
Briley Becker led the Rebels with nine kills and Hailee Eldridge had eight. Abby Bourgeois had 28 assists.
“We can’t go anywhere but up from here,” Nicholas said. “We have to look at all our positives. We’re going to be OK.”