By Andrew Glover
PERKINS, Okla. —
Stillwater High School volleyball coach Jason Webber often compares his four seniors to pieces of a puzzle — each one playing a crucial role during the Lady Pioneers’ run to the state tournament.
But perhaps an even better description might be a rock band.
You’ve got libero Carley Geer as the lead vocalist — the rock star of the group. Through her inspirational words and play, she makes everyone better.
There’s Sarah Carpenter on the guitar. She has an uncanny knack to improvise seemingly at will, and the results are usually spectacular.
Maggie Ireton holds down the drums. Often referred to as “the crazy one” by her fellow seniors, Ireton is a steady hitter that occasionally surprises you with a solo.
Lastly, there’s bassist Morgan Wheatley. The quietest of the group, Wheatley just goes about her business as usual — nothing too fancy. Then all of a sudden she’ll go off, leaving you scratching your head and saying, “Where did that come from?”
“Each one of them is distinctively different from one another,” Webber said. “Yet they’ve figured out a way to find a bond and work together as friends and family on the court. They’ve had their fair share of tears together. They’ve been excited about each other and upset with each other. They’ve been through the whole gamut of emotions, and having gone through that enough times, they have become a united team.”
Now, as Stillwater prepares to open the state tournament against top-seeded Edmond Santa Fe at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Bixby, those four senior rock stars have the Lady Pioneers ready to take to the state’s biggest stage in hopes of making some beautiful music.
“We all love each other, for starters,” Ireton said.
“We’ve known each other for a while, so we’ve learned to work well with each other,” Geer said.
“And I think since we’re all different, we all bring something different to the table and we just go together well,” Carpenter said.
Even off the court they can’t help but to finish each other’s sentences. That’s how in tune they are to each other.
Like any good band, sharing time in the spotlight can be tough. The guitarist or drummer might want a solo, or the bassist might feel like an outcast and turn away from the group.
But somehow they make it work — not only sharing the spotlight amongst themselves, but the roadies and electricians that come in the form of the juniors and seniors.
“This is probably the closes that our team has been and the best that we’ve worked as a unit,” Carpenter said.
“The school that I was at before, I was on varsity, but it never felt like a family,” Ireton said. “It felt like a family, but not like it is now. I have three new sisters I can look to and know that they want the same thing. It’s a lot better.”
And that same thing? A state championship — something that Webber said didn’t even cross his mind six years ago when he first met some of the now seniors.
“I looked back at a couple of these young ladies in the ninth grade and I asked myself, ‘Will these girls ever be able to play varsity level volleyball?’” Webber said. “To see them rise up and shine in the last year and last nine months has been fantastic. It’s why I do my job, to see them grow and to see those light bulb moments where they get that much more experience playing the game and that much more calm and poised under fire.”
While Webber rarely doubts his players’ abilities, it’s that doubt that has brought this group so close together. It’s also why the Lady Pioneers think they can knock off the top-ranked team in Class 6A.
“It helps boost our confidence,” Geer said. “We can show someone more than what they thought we could. It’s making a statement for Stillwater High.”
“We’re pretty excited,” Carpenter said. “We have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We’re not cocky, but we have a lot of confidence in the skills that we have and the teamwork that we have.”
Even as the four senior enter their final two days on a volleyball court together, years down the road those memories and the bond they share — not only with each other, but also the other members of the team — will continue to linger.
And while they may all come from different personalities and backgrounds, the four seniors are hoping at least for one final encore performance Friday.
“I’m definitely going to take regionals with me,” Ireton said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
“Those hugs after regionals were pretty fun,” Carpenter said.
“I’m just going to (remember) how well we’ve work together and how we’ve became so close,” Geer said. “It’s the closest I’ve been with any set of girls on my teams.”