By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Sarah Carpenter isn’t the hardest hitter on the Stillwater High School volleyball team. She’s not the most athletic or the most techincally sound, either.
But one thing she is — effective.
From her unique hitting style which produces a high-arching shot that sinks just inside the line to her unpredictable serves, the senior has played a huge role in Stillwater’s success this season.
“That’s pretty much all her,” coach Jason Webber said of Carpenter’s unique swing. “It’s not a techincal swing, but it is a functional swing. It’s something that she has and has gotten to work really well over the past few years. I’ve tried to fix it, but it doesn’t seem to really be broken.”
Carpenter’s swing certainly wasn’t broken during the Stillwater Varsity Tournament last weekend. Her unorthodox swing helped fuel the Lady Pioneers to a 3-2 record and third-place finish, boosted their confidence heading into the home stretch of the season.
“It’s just really exciting to get kills like that,” Carpenter said. “It just really boosts the mood of the whole team. Everyone gets excited to see the ball hit the floor on the other side.”
Like a crafty lefty in baseball or a golfer who adjusts for his slice, Webber has learned to deal with Carpenter’s approach, no matter how difficult of a pill it is to swallow.
The reason behind that? It gets the job done.
“That’s been her trademark,” Webber said. “A lot of people like to bang hard and are one dimensional. Sarah is very mindful about what she does and is able to use multiple approaches to solve a problem. It’s just one of her trademarks and what we like about her. Sometimes we don’t really know how to solve a problem and she says, ‘Give it to me and I’ll get it done.’”
And like any good reliever, she uses her wits just as much as she uses her famous sinker.
“I’ve never been the greatest athlete, so I always have to be intelligent in everything I do,” Carpenter said. “When I’m hitting, I’ll look for ways I can outsmart the other team.”
“It’s about being creative while you’re on the floor, taking shots that most people think that you wouldn’t take and catching people off guard,” Webber said. “When she’s at her peak, she’s really good at finding ways to beat teams.”
But for as intelligent of a player that Carpenter is, Webber said there is one thing that keeps her from being better — and it’s not her swing. It’s her confidence.
“(Webber) called a timeout during the Union match and just was really getting on to me because I was losing faith,” Carpenter said. “That was really key. We did lose the match, but I think it got us in gear for the Memorial match.”
Armed with that restored confidence, Carpenter tallied five aces to go along with several in the 3-1 win over the Lady Bulldogs.
“That last match against Memorial was just really encourging for our team and me personally,” Carpenter said. “Knowing that I can perform that way against a good team is encouraging.”
And while the season may not be over just yet, Webber said without a doubt that the Lady Pioneers would not be in a position to make another run to state without its unorthodox senior co-captain — on or off the court.
“The chemisty is different (without her),” Webber said. “She has made herself a trademark on the front of uniting the team. The players chose her and Carley Geer as captions unanimously. Those two got about the same number of votes each and they definitely rally behind Sarah.”
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