Carly Ochs walked this path before. A standout outside hitter for St. Joseph’s Academy, Ochs and her fellow Angels are in the final stages of an impressive regular season that has them the No. 1 ranked large school in the area. The defending Class 4 champions, the Angels have won two of the last three state titles and sandwiched a fourthplace finish between them. They have the look of a team bent on making its fourth consecutive appearance at the final four and rolling the dice for another banner.
Ochs has been through all of that with the Angels. She joined the varsity during the later stages of her freshman season and has stuck around. Now, as a senior, the 6-foot-1, 17-year-old Ochs and her fellow upperclassmen are putting the lessons they’ve learned to work. Injuries have forced their hand. With junior stalwarts Natalie Gower and Lauren Gresham lost to ACL tears, the rest of the team has had to find ways to contribute across the board: be it in a new position, by playing more or just bringing it every day at practice.
Practice, it’s been said, makes perfect. It’s at practice that Ochs said the Angels do some of their best work pursuing perfection. Sometimes things get so heated it reaches the point that they’ll want to tear their hair out. Coach Karen Davis and her assistants will step in and tell them to cool out. “She’ll tell us it’s just a drill,” Ochs says. “We’re so competitive at practice it carries over into games.”
St. Joe, a cool 20-5, is its best competition at this point. The Angels have run roughshod over most of the local opponents, which considering the players they’ve lost to injury, is rather impressive. Everyone likes to take their best shot at the Angels. When you pull on the St. Joe jersey it might as well come with a target on the back. So far, only a few have been able to topple them. And that crooked number in the loss column is a product of out-oftown teams taking their turn. “They want to say they’ve beaten us,” Ochs says.
Ochs inflicts a significant amount of damage on the local teams that lineup against the Angels. A fierce outside hitter who has the ability to carry the scoring load at any given moment, Ochs gets fed the ball on a consistent basis and consistently puts points on the board. There’s little she’d rather do than take the volleyball and blast it into oblivion. “I love hitting, whether it’s on the outside or the middle,” she says.
Ochs came to St. Joe as a middle hitter. She moved to the outside because it gave her a better chance to play more often as a high school and, eventually, college athlete. Ochs plans on playing her college volleyball at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Her official visit was everything she had hoped it would be. The coaching staff and team welcomed her with open arms. She’s not sure what she wants to study, but academics have always been a significant part of her life. Ochs has been named to the Missouri High School Volleyball Coaches Academic All-State team. She also is part of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta, the Mathematics Honor Society.
“The team and coaches were so welcoming I felt like I was at home,” she says. “I felt like it was the whole package.” But before she matriculates, Ochs has a few things left to do at St. Joe. Chief among them is to make another appearance at the final four. Getting there, though, is a brutal and draining process. No one knows this better than Ochs and her fellow Angels. “We know what it takes to get there,” she says. “We have to be at our best for the postseason. We still have to work really hard.”
St. Joe travels to Phoenix this weekend to participate in the Nike Tournament of Champions.