By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Over the past week or so, the Stillwater High School volleyball team has seen its fair share of struggles. They got away with what made them successful earlier in the season — playing fundamentally sound volleyball.
Thursday, it was those same fundamentals — along with incredible poise under pressure — that helped the Lady Pioneers defeat No. 5 Tulsa Union 3-1 in front of a raucous Pioneer Fieldhouse crowd.
“I was simply shocked by how well my girls attempted to stick to the fundamentals that they knew would work,” Stillwater coach Jason Webber said. “We struggled with that so much in the past few days, in the past week. It was nice to see them come together and stress out a really good team.”
It only seemed fitting that the last kill of the night came from sophomore Lauren Gattis to seal a 25-23 win in the fourth set. After all, she had been one of the key cogs in the upset over the Lady Redskins.
“We work so hard in practice and it feels really good to have it all pay off on the court,” Gattis said.
But while Gattis may have had the heavy hand, the real story of the night was the Lady Pioneers’ resiliency. Three times the Lady Pioneers (8-11) got down by six points or more in the final three games. Three times they came back and made a game of it, winning the final two sets 25-21 and 25-23.
“We just kept pushing through,” Gattis said. “We’re one of those teams that can overcome anything because we’re so close as a team. That’s what really helped us.”
Stillwater came out on fire to begin the first game, turning what was a close 9-6 game into a big lead with the help of an ace from Emily Hoeker and a pair of kills from Shelby Childers. Union (15-7) managed to close the gap to 16-14 at one point, but an 8-1 run essentially put the game out of reach with a 25-17 victory.
Stillwater struggled in the second game, falling behind 15-7 at one point. Yet, even that couldn’t deter the Lady Pioneers.
Carley Geer tallied three aces late in the match to help Stillwater pull even at 21-21. But eventually the Lady Pioneers ran out of steam as a block by Tyeece Buchanan gave Union a 25-23 win.
“We found a weakness in the serve receive and exploited that,” Webber said. “Carley Geer remained focused the whole time and made sure that she stayed zeroed in on the target.”
Much like the second game, the Lady Pioneers fell behind 15-7 early. Only this time Stillwater completed the comeback with a 25-21, thanks in large part to a couple of key kills by Lauren Gattis in the game’s closing moments.
Gattis continued to elevate her play in the fourth game, tallying six kills in the game — the last two which grazed inside the line for the game’s final two points to give Stillwater the much-needed win.
“It definitely was a much-needed, timely event,” Webber said. “We’re coming into the final weeks of the season, and this really goes a long way to improve our rankings and our status in the state. We’ve had a rough beginning of the season, rough middle of the season, but we’re ready for the postseason.”
Along with Gattis’ eight kills, Shelby Childers also tallied eight kills. Carley Walstad finished with 25 assists, while Maggie Ireton tallied five kills and a pair of big blocks to spark the Lady Pioneers in the first game.
Stillwater will travel to Westmoore Tuesday before facing Ponca City at home Thursday. They will also host a tournament Friday.