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Osseo's Megan Pekarek set the ball for teammate during their game with Blaine on Tuesday September 10, 2013. (Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune)
The last time Osseo reached the state volleyball tournament was in 2008, when the team was led by the older pair of Pekarek sisters — Sarah and Rachel.
Bill Quan and his 2013 squad, coming off a three-set sweep of perennial power Blaine last week, believe they have what it takes again, led by a younger pair of Pekareks.
The athleticism of Megan Pekarek, a senior setter, and sister Hannah, a junior at outside hitter, is visible on the court. However, it’s their chemistry and knowledge of the game that has the Orioles, 9-0 heading into Tuesday evening’s match, setting their sights on a 2013 state tournament berth.
The competitiveness that the Pekarek sisters bring to his team has roots in being a part of an athletic family in which everyone, mom and dad included, plays volleyball.
“I’m sure the three-on-three battles in the back yard have to be good. I‘d love to sit on the deck and watch them,” Quan said.
The Pekareks’ older sisters both went on to play in college. Sarah played at Colorado School of Mines while Rachel went to South Dakota School of Mines. In watching them play, the younger girls have developed an intelligent game to match their abilities.
Megan, as the quarterback and decisionmaker of the Osseo offense since eighth grade, has a calm demeanor that exudes trust with her coach and teammates. As Osseo’s all-time leader with more than 2,100 assists, including 238 this season, there’s little wonder why Quan trusts his senior to ad-lib on the court.
“When she runs my offense we talk about a game plan. Then she goes out and executes it and does what she sees fit, with a little guidance along the way,” Quan said with a smile.
From the outside hitter position, Hannah, at just 5--7, deceives opponents. Her lack of height doesn’t impede her offense, though. Quan describes her as a crafty attacker and a one who can make every shot. For the season, she has 49 kills, 14 aces and 102 digs.
“When she gets a hole in the block, she can pound it. A lot of times, if it’s a closed block, she’s the girl that can swipe it off, tool the block and hit high hands,” Quan said, noting that defense might be her best asset.
Through last weekend, Hannah’s season mark for digs was second only to Jazlynn Tanielu, the team’s libero.
According to the sisters, the real key to being able to take advantage of their skills and volleyball I.Q. is the way they rely on each other to stay calm when games become close or the team begins to struggle.
“As sisters, at a minimum, we make sure that each other are in a good mental state. We’re the only ones who can really get each other in line if the other is not having a good game or is freaking out. We’re the only ones that can say it upfront,” Hannah Pekarek said.
“We try to bring positivity and calmness, because when we freak out we [as a team] really play bad,” Megan added.
The first tough test of the season came against Blaine. Quan said the match wasn’t as easy as the boxscore might have suggested.
The Pekareks agreed, noting that the tough games and hard moments they’ve overcome are what truly shows just how good their team can be.
“It brings that little bit of confidence,” Quan said. “It’s the difference between I think we can to it, to we’ve done it already.”