By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
On a night when nostalgia ruled the air, it was a different type of nostalgia Stillwater High School sophomore Carley Walstad felt that helped the Lady Pioneers pick up a three-game sweep over state powerhouse Broken Arrow on Stillwater Junior High School’s old gym floor.
“I know that it would have been awesome to play at the high school,” Walstad said. “But for me, I was so nervous about this game. I played here before (in junior high), so I felt kind of at home in this place.”
Walstad tallied three aces and 31 assists, while freshman Katie Ray recorded four blocks as Stillwater (1-1) swept Broken Arrow (0-2) — a state quarterfinalist from last season — 25-23, 27-25 and 25-17.
“This is huge,” Stillwater coach Jason Webber said. “That’s such a large school and a very talented program — they have some good coaching. It’s always nice to go up against a big school, play equally as hard, put a couple things together and recognize where we’re weak and where we can get stronger. ... Everybody figured out their job, if they made a mistake they were quick to fix it and adjust to the next play. They were very intelligent on their offensive attack and very mobile on their defense and really didn’t let very many balls drop.”
That defense started with Ray — who recorded a pair of huge blocks in the first game — the Lady Pioneers used a 5-2 run during the middle of the game to take a lead they would never relinquish en route to a 25-23 victory.
Broken Arrow did make the game a little interesting, tying the game at 22-22 and even taking the lead when freshman Savannah Onley crossed the center line. But that’s all the Lady Tigers got as Carley Geer’s ace helped put the game away.
“Between (Ray) and the middles closing down the block, it was neat to see the middles in Katie and even Carley work together to slow down the outside — which is one of our goals. All four of those ladies did a great job of doing that.”
It looked like Stillwater might make quick work of Broken Arrow in the second game as well, going on a 7-2 run to steal all the momentum from the Lady Tigers.
That lead quickly vanished as Broken Arrow went on a 9-2 run, tying the game at 22-22 once again. And even when Broken Arrow took a 25-24 lead, Stillwater didn’t panic. Instead it went to it’s bread-and-butter combination of Walstad to Sarah Carpenter to score the final three points to take the game 27-25 for a 2-0 match lead.
“In practice, Webber has us in the game-like situations where he’ll say that they just came up on a run,” Walstad said. “The consequences are (if we don’t win the match) we run or something. We’re used to that pressure and we just have fun.”
“That is the theme of the night,” Webber said. “Under pressure, our girls really never thought about the score clock — they just thought about the ball at hand. They took care of business and they did what they needed to do several times. We were losing momentum and they’d get it right back.”
Stillwater may have struggled to close out the second game of the match, but with all the momentum in their favor that wasn’t the case in the final game. Walstad’s used pin-point accuracy with her passes, setting up seniors Carpenter and Morgan Wheatley — who led the team with nine kills each — for easy kills as the Lady Pioneers turned what was a tight 15-14 lead into a 25-17 rout by going on a 10-3 run.
“All the girls played well but (Walstad) was definitely a difference maker,” Webber said. “She wants to win and I’ve been trying to teach her the principles of doing that.
“At times they played flawless volleyball and at other times it was a little off, but they still figured it out. They’re a very intelligent group.”
The Lady Pioneers may be riding high on the wave of momentum after bouncing back from a loss earlier this week to OBA, but it will have to be short-lived. Stillwater will open travel to Tulsa Union for the Union Tournament Friday.
“We carrying a lot of momentum, especially because it was a 3-0 win,” Walstad said. “They didn’t get anything on us. It’ll be difficult because we are going to have the jay-vee tournament here and varsity tournament there, but it should help us strengthen our relationship.”