Oakton volleyball builds its region résumé with a four-set win over Chantilly

Katie Thompson has had three weeks on the job as Oakton’s starting setter. On Thursday the junior looked as if she had been there for years.

The Cougars knocked off No. 7 Chantilly in four sets, 26-28, 25-19, 25-17, 25-22, on their home court in Vienna.

“Bad passes turn into great hits with Katie,” Oakton Coach Dan Courain said.

“There’s been a lot of improvement,” junior outside hitter Grace Cozadsaid.

Oakton’s offense runs through Cozad and senior outside hitter Alice Yang. It’s no secret, Courain said, and because the game plan is often that simple, the Cougars’ setters rarely have to be game managers, just good passers.

Thompson can do that. She emerged after an early season position battle because of her accuracy. The job description was simple: feed Cozad and Yang.

On Thursday night, she did, especially when Oakton was in need of a point. In Sets 3 and 4, as the Cougars (17-4, 2-0 Conference 5) pulled away, Cozad and Yang combined for 22 of the team’s 31 kills.

“She puts it in the perfect place for me and Alice to slam it down,” said Cozad, who finished with a match-high 20 kills.

In the middle of a seven-point run in the third set that gave Oakton a 20-13 lead, Thompson set Cozad for crucial back-to-back kills.

On the next point, Cozad blasted a Thompson set off a Chantilly blocker’s shoulder, then smacked the rebound off another blocker and out of bounds.

Six points later, Yang finished the set with a kill on a pass from Thompson, who finished with 38 assists.

“They play like that almost every night,” Courain said of his star hitters.

Not quite every night, Cozad said: “It felt better than normal because it was Chantilly.”

Early on Thursday though, Thompson stayed away from her pin hitters, opting instead for middle blockers Maya Elassal and Lizzie Heier.

Thompson has gotten in such a rhythm, Courain said, she’s free to make those reads and feed the hot hand. Maybe setting for Elassal and Heier will keep defenses from keying in on Yang and Cozad, Thompson said.

“She’s smart,” Courain said. “She doesn’t force it.”

And if those options aren’t available, Cozad and Yang always are.

“They’re the ones I look to,” Thompson said, “because they get it done so consistently.”

Coming into the match, the Chargers (9-1, 1-1) had taken two of the past three meetings between the Conference 5 rivals.

The Cougars were ready Thursday, Courain said. Three years ago, Oakton posted a 5-20 record. The Chargers swept the Cougars on “dig pink night,” a volleyball homecoming of sorts that benefits breast cancer awareness organizations.

This season, Oakton is playing for the top seed in its region.

A win against Chantilly goes a long way, Courain said.

“We want the one seed,” he said. “We don’t want to run into these guys again.”



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