By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
At times this season, Stillwater High School volleyball senior Maggie Ireton felt like an outsider that didn’t belong.
Despite spending a year in Stillwater coach Jason Webber’s system after moving from Quinlan, Texas, Ireton couldn’t force herself to break the habits formed at her old school.
So she did the only the only thing her body knew to do — just kept swinging.
“As long as you keep swinging, you will find what’s wrong,” Ireton said. “You will eventually overcome your mistakes and realize what you need to do, how to fix it and move on. ... You just have to keep swinging no matter what, don’t let it get you down.”
That strategy paid off for Ireton and the Lady Pioneers last week as they clinched their second straight trip to the state tournament with a five-game win over Booker T. Washington Thursday.
“She’s really come along lately by just listening to my voice and being calm and patient under fire,” Webber said. “She just relaxes and listens to what I have to say because she knows that it works. It’s been a lot of fun to see that in a swing or two or a block she can ignite a fire and help encourage others through magnificent play.”
Ireton may have made it look easy against Washington — evolving into a one-woman wrecking crew with the game on the line — but it hasn’t always been that way.
“My whole way of playing volleyball — the way I passed, the way I swung, everything — was completely different,” Ireton said. “When I came here, I had to relearn everything. I’m a really fast learner — I process everything fast — but the way to get your body to move and learn is a lot harder.
“A few times I got down on myself. My mental toughness wasn’t as high as it should have been. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to relearn everything and it’s going to pull me back so much.’ But after I started getting it, I started building my confidence and building all the skills up and that really helped me.”
Confidence may have been the key to Ireton’s sudden improved play, but it was also a few kind words from Webber that made a world of difference.
“I just tell her, ‘It’s OK. You will struggle on the way to progress,’” Webber said. “By trying new things, by trying risky things, by trying aggressive techniques and maneuvers, you’re going to struggle at first. Then you’ll find your footing, you’ll find your rhythm and you’ll be patient in the moment.”
Even now as the Lady Pioneers prepare for their state matchup against Edmond Santa Fe Friday, Ireton’s play isn’t perfect.
By her own account, her defense needs some work and there are still times when she occasionally makes a hitting mistake. But it’s how she’s learned to deal with those mistakes that has turned her into what looked like a senior destined to play junior varsity the rest of her career into a go-to hitter for Carley Walstad and the rest of the Lady Pioneers.
“In the beginning at Booker T., my confidence wasn’t so high because I was making little mistakes that I never made before or I only made once before,” Ireton said. “After I got out of that slump, I came out just knowing that I needed to do something. I needed to be in rhythm and get my elbow higher — all those little things just to come out and do what I did.”
And while Webber often has plenty of words of advice for Ireton to help her further better herself, only two words came to his mind: “Well done.”
Marlon McDonald, football
Zach Porterfield, cross country
McKinsey Stokes, softball
Sydney Scott, softball