By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When the regional brackets were announced earlier this week, Stillwater High School volleyball coach Jason Webber didn’t bat an eye — opting instead to focus on Tuesday’s game against Owasso.
But while he might have been able to hide it on the outside, it was a different story for Webber inside. The butterflies began churning and Webber was almost giddy with excitement.
Why? Because he sees the handwriting on the wall.
“I think if we play well our chances are very good,” Webber said. “We match up well with Booker T. They might have a little more height and athleticism, but we feel like we got this.”
Stillwater (13-15) will look to make a return trip to state when they travel to Booker T. Washington in Tulsa Thursday for a Class 6A regional tournament.
But the preparation has already began.
“Basically, we’ve just been studying our opponent and working on things we could be better at,” Webber said. “We’ve just been working on a lot of the basic concepts.”
The road to state may be a little easier than years past — with only one ranked team in the bracket — but Webber knows it will be anything but easy.
“We’ve seen Broken Arrow before and studied them,” Webber said. “If they get past Booker T., we know they’re going to give us a challenge. The same goes for U.S. Grant. Their records may not show it but all three of the teams (apart from Stillwater) in this regional are quality teams.”
But when it comes to the postseason, it’s all about who gets hot at the right time. And right now, few teams are hotter than the Lady Pioneers, who took down Class 6A No. 4 Union and No. 5 Jenks within a week’s span.
“That’s fantastic for us,” Webber said. “We’re playing with more confidence and are more solid as a result. You always want to peak right as you enter regionals and I feel like we’ve done that. We had our struggles earlier this year, but we’re in a nice situation where we could be 15-15 by the end of the year. It’s just a testament to how hard the girls are working.”
While Stillwater had a little help winning regionals last year on the home floor, Webber said it’d be hard to count the Lady Pioneers out — even with the possibility of facing No. 7 Booker T. Washington in the finals.
“I think our experience definitely gives us good odds,” Webber said. “You can just see the determination in the girls’ faces at practice. A lot of our girls weren’t on last year’s team, but you can see their experience from earlier this year is paying off. They’re making smarter decisions and playing better as a collective group.”
The Lady Pioneers may have gained a little experience with the run to state last year, but Webber said that won’t necessarily translate into success this season.
“We just need to have confidence and trust our volleyball instincts,” Webber said. “You never know how younger players are going to respond. It’s a completely different team with different chemistry. Hopefully we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing.”
Even so, Webber said he’s not only hoping for a state berth, but almost expecting it — saying it would be another huge step in his program’s progression to becoming a state powerhouse.
“We’re really trying to foster a legacy,” Webber said. “We made it to state last year and we almost expect to make it again this year. Some day, we’d like to play in the big game, but this is just another opportunity to foster that legacy.”