Huron’s Olivia Plagens doesn’t stand out on the volleyball court – until the ball is served that is. Then, she’s as big anyone and came up the biggest in Friday night’s District finals win over Skyline in an epic five-set battle that sent the River Rats to Tuesday’s regional game.
Plagens is an outside hitter. All 5-foot-6 of her. And when she stands at the net next to teammate’s Franziska Duhr (6-foot-2) and Molly Johnson (6-4) she is easily missed – until the ball is served.
During the fifth set, the 5-6 Plagens exploded off the floor, rose above the net, reached for the sky and delivered a spike that gave the home team an early 3-2 lead in the decisive game. And it wasn’t a one-time highlight reel exclusive.
The senior went to the net again and spiked home a point to make it 8-8. Same thing as before. Explode. Rise. Kill!
She hit the trifecta with another monster spike – and these balls were struck as hard as any ball hit all night from her much bigger teammates – to give Huron its biggest lead at 12-9. A miss there and it’s 11-10 and anyone’s ball game.
“She’s fantastic,” says Huron Coach Toney Cummer. “She is one of the most explosive jumpers on our team. It’s been really fun to watch her confidence grow over the past couple of weeks. She had to battle for playing time earlier in the season and now she is just owning it.”
And she was owning it in that third set.
“I love it,” she said of her huge spikes just moments after Huron’s victory in a loud and excited gym. “It’s really fun.”
So where did this “fun” come from?
“I don’t really know,” she said. “I remember my freshman year trying out for volleyball and I was on the freshman team and one day my dad came to pick me up and the varsity coach said to him, ‘hey, did you know your daughter has an incredible vertical.’
“So it’s kind of been there but what’s changed over the years is my ability to adjust to different balls and be able to jump like that in different situations.”
Plagens transferred to Huron after two years at Father Gabriel Richard and was part of FGR’s state title team that ran the table and is considered one of the best teams of all time in the area. And while she lost an entire year of eligibility last year, she took on the role as team manager and trained with the River Rats the entire season.
“She got pulled up from the JV and was on that team (at FGR) that went 42-0 so she has the most postseason experience on our team,” Cummer said. “And (Friday) she was fantastic. She had a career-high in kills and they came at big times too.”
But volleyball is a team game and no one knows that more than the senior outside hitter who wears a smile as often as she leaves her feet – which is quite a bit.
“This team has such a great vibe,” she said. “The seniors and sophomores have all come together and really formed a family. We just love each other so much.”
The River Rats, who feature 10 seniors and four sophomores, have been playing with a lot of confidence and it all came together in the fifth game on Friday night.
“We just knew we had to win,” Plagens said. “We played together the whole game and that was a big difference. We stayed with them the whole time and never got too far behind.”
Plagens, who is considering North Carolina, Michigan and Boston College for her next chapter in her life, used to play soccer and is thinking about playing in the spring for the River Rats. It’s easy to picture her rising over the defense and heading the ball into the back of the net.
But she still a different kind of net to focus on – and jump over – this week and hopefully even longer.
Photos by Charlene Plagens