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Tom Mix, Published September 10 2013

New coach Lopez guides Grovers to win in home opener

FARGO – Jennifer Lopez’s volleyball resume received a big update this summer when the former Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and North Dakota State standout accepted the head coaching job at Fargo Oak Grove.

Time will tell if the coaching section of that resume becomes as decorated with achievements, which were plentiful during her playing career for the Rebels and the Bison. But for now, the former multiple all-Summit League selection is happy to have an opportunity to coach.

“I knew I wanted to get into coaching, and when the opportunity at Oak Grove came along, I was really excited,” said Lopez, who played at NDSU from 2008-11 and helped the Bison to three NCAA tournament appearances. “It’s the next step I wanted to go to.”

On Tuesday, Lopez and the Grovers were matched up against Barnesville (Minn.) in their home opener. Oak Grove cruised to a 25-22, 25-16, 25-18 win over the Trojans at Gorder Gymnasium.

“I was very happy with how the team played start to finish,” Lopez said. “We still have a long way to go, but we have started the year off well.”

With the victory, Oak Grove improves to 6-1. Not a bad start for Lopez, who is also completing a mathematics education degree at NDSU.

“She is so smart,” Oak Grove junior setter Kirsten Bokinskie said of Lopez. “She knows how to play and coach all the positions. We’ve improved a lot and learned a lot as a team.”

“The biggest adjustment to coaching is what goes behind the scenes,” Lopez said. “I have always been a player and played at a high level, but the amount of work it takes to prepare a team is what was new for me. It’s been a good adjustment and I have learned a lot.”

Bokinskie paced the Grovers sweep, finishing with six kills, five aces and 29 assists. Senior middle hitter Hannah Kelley added 10 kills for the Grovers, who have only lost one set this season.

Both the Trojans and Grovers were one win away from state tournament berths a year ago. On Tuesday, Oak Grove had all of the momentum.

“We got going right away,” Bokinskie said. “Our passes got going, then our sets got going and then our hitting picked up. It was all flowing.”

Oak Grove had six players with five or more kills in the match, which was the Trojans’ first loss of the season.

Senior setter Holly Vancura finished with 13 kills and five assists for Barnesville (4-1).

“Defensively, we were never able to respond,” Barnesville head coach Megan Askegaard said. “We didn’t move well and did not react well.”

Oak Grove totaled 11 ace serves in the match.

B (kills-blocks-aces): Hustad 0-0-0 (15 assists), Vancura 13-0-0 (5 assists), Solum 2-0-0, Skogen 5-0-1, Peterson 1-1-3, Stangeland 3-1-0.

OG: Zaeske 7-0-2, Sharpe 7-0-0, Kelley 10-1-0, Bokinskie 6-1-5 (29 assists), Osmundson 5-0-2, Kounovsky 7-3-0, Jacobs 0-0-2.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562