By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When it comes to scheduling teams, Stillwater High School volleyball coach Jason Webber isn’t afraid of challenges. He figures that if the Lady Pioneers are going to be the best team in the state, why not knock off a few of top-tier teams along the way?
Thursday, the Lady Pioneers (0-1) will face that first challenge as Broken Arrow — a state quarterfinalist from last season — comes to Stillwater for the home opener. And while it may not be a home opener in the truest sense — with the game being play at Stillwater Junior High School while the high school gym floor continues to get refurbished — make no mistake, Webber said Stillwater will be ready.
“It’s going to be different, but it is sort of our territory,” Webber said. “We’ve been practicing in that gym for the last couple of weeks and I’m excited to see how we match up against the big dogs.”
Webber may consider Broken Arrow (0-1) “big dogs” but it isn’t just because of the team’s legacy or the fact that they are the largest school in Oklahoma. Broken Arrow’s height advantage will definitely be a factor Thursday, but Webber said not to write the Lady Pioneers off just yet.
“We’re going up against the biggest school in the state and a really big opponent,” Webber said. “They’ve got a good coaching program, they’ve got good girls and they work hard. We’ve already seen them once (in a scrimmage) and we looked pretty good against them — we match up well.”
Stillwater may be coming off a five-game loss to Oklahoma Bible Academy Tuesday, but having already seen what Broken Arrow has to offer could help the Lady Pioneers Thursday.
“It was really nice because during the Bartlesville scrimmage, we didn’t run the same lineup twice,” Webber said. “We did well against them. It was close. I know Broken Arrow will have grown by the time we see them, but it’s still going to be a really fun match to watch.”
Another big plus for the Lady Pioneers? They will have their full roster available after most of the sophomore class sat out against OBA Tuesday. But the key will be trying to find a combination that works early in the match.
“We’ll have everybody back on Thursday,” Webber said. “When we get everybody in the right place where they belong and are comfortable, I think we’re going to see everybody sort of click and have a lot of fun. The girls that had to sit are very excited. They’re not exciting about sitting, they’re excited to play, and I think when we get the right people in the right place you’re going to see that we are very comfortable with each other.”
Comfort may be something that will be hard to come by for Stillwater. Opening in a different setting against an opponent who already has state title aspirations in what will be the first varsity game for several players — it’s enough to make a lot of coaches nervous. But Webber said even after Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss that he expects the team to bounce back and at least give Broken Arrow a run for its money.
“I think we’re going to rebound well,” Webber said. “The basics are what got us here and they’re what keep us going. We’re going to be mindful of the things that help produce good, quality swings so that we can stay on the attack. We’re going to try to stay focused as a group and stay together. They’ve really bonded well — they don’t get on each other’s nerves or get upset at each other. I think as long as we’re all going in the same direction, I think our chances are really good.”