By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
During the Senior Night festivities before the match against Owasso on Tuesday at the Pioneer Fieldhouse, Stillwater High School senior Kiley Josey said her best memory was beating Owasso on Senior Night. Little did she know just how memorable that match would be.
Josey’s kill in the fifth game barely nicked the line. Seconds later the floor was flooded with students and fans as the fifth-ranked Lady Pioneers knocked off No. 7 Owasso with a 16-14 win in the fifth game to take the match 3-2.
“It feels good to have talked a big talk and follow through,” Josey said. “I just knew tonight was going to be special when I was writing that. ... It was definitely close. I think it hit the line. It was really close and I was relieved when I saw the call.”
“I don’t think you can cut it any closer, hitting the line like that at the very end,” Stillwater coach Jason Webber said. “I was very doubtful for a couple of seconds whether the ball was in or not. It was a lot of fun when it was called in — it was good to end the night on a bang. It relieved a lot of stress when that final whistle blew.”
Josey may have been the big hero with her game-winning kill, but it wouldn’t be possible without players like seniors Alexia Geer and Kaitlyn Cotton on defense.
Cotton’s block in the fifth game provided the spark for Stillwater — evening the match at 14 — as the Lady Pioneers rattled off four-straight points to win the match. Cotton finished with five blocks in total.
“Tonight I just knew I had to go to the angle and focus on the ball,” Cotton said. “It was time to do the best that I can do for all my girls out here. I just tried to focus on my fundamentals.”
“We needed (Cotton) to be big and tall, and that she was,” Webber said. “She jumped high. She’s very intelligent and works very hard. She timed a couple of balls just right and she was able to keep the ball in play or to stuff it down to the other side.”
The match may have ended in an exciting fashion, but through the first match Stillwater looked like it was on it’s way to a third straight loss on Senior Night. Perhaps fueled by nerves the Lady Pioneers dropped the first game 25-17 before bouncing back with a 25-16 win in the second game.
“There’s a lot of excitement on Senior Night,” Webber said. “That match could have gone either way. We knew coming in that Owasso was a quality team that always does well at the end of the year, so we were expecting it.”
Stillwater jumped out to an early lead in the third game before Owasso came roaring back to tie the game at 24-24. Once again the senior-laden defense stepped up for the Lady Pioneers with senior Peyton Meacham recording a game-winning block.
“They have a lot of big hitters that were able to hit over our blockers,” Webber said. “Our defense was very patient. Our blockers timed their jumps well and our back line was in a position where if (the blockers) missed the block, they were there to make the play.”
After dropping the fourth game 25-19, Stillwater fell behind 13-10 thanks to a 4-0 run by Owasso.
It looked like time was going to run out on the Lady Pioneers when a block by Savannah Gamble sparked Stillwater’s late comeback.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Josey said. “We adjusted well. They would hit some spots that we weren’t in and we figured that out. We moved well and then we were able to get on the offensive and just attack them.”
Josey led Stillwater with 19 kills, while Meacham had 10 kills. Senior Tessa Meeks had 16 assist and three aces.
Next Stillwater will face Putnam City at 4:30 p.m. in the regional tournament Thursday at the Pioneer Fieldhouse.
Cotton said the win over Owasso should give the Lady Pioneers a boost as they head into the tournament.
“This was a great prequel to regionals and we’re really excited about hosting,” Cotton said. “We’re excited to show a bunch of people what we’ve been working so hard for, and that’s getting to state.”