By Nick Snow
BIXBY, Okla. —
All Stillwater High School volleyball coach Jason Webber wanted was for his team to compete.
Even in the waning moments of the third game against top-ranked Edmond Santa Fe Friday, Webber had just two words of advice, “Keep fighting.”
And while the Lady Pioneers may not have come out on top of an otherwise lopsided 3-0 loss to the Lady Wolves, Friday’s state quarterfinal was another step in the right direction for Webber’s program.
“The cool thing is that the girls were learning, even in the final moments of this year’s journey,” Webber said. “They’re learning how to work together, they’re learning how to talk to each other. Even in the final set we were getting better and better.”
One thing the Lady Pioneers did learn at state? Patience.
After being delayed nearly an hour because the Jenks-Tulsa Union match went to a fifth set, Stillwater waited and waited, then waited some more.
That seemed to hamper the Lady Pioneers in the first set as Santa Fe jumped out to a 10-2 lead at one point.
“I think it made us come out a little cold,” Stillwater senior Carley Geer said. “It kind of held us (down) a little bit.”
Even so, Stillwater battled back later in the match, something that would be a recurring theme for the Lady Pioneers, closing the gap to 19-16 at one point thanks to an ace by Emily Hoecker and a couple of big kills by Shelby Childers.
“We came out a little timid in the first game because they’re the big dogs,” Geer said. “We came out like we were already defeated, but then we gained our trust in each other and fought back.”
But in the end, Santa Fe was a little too much for the Lady Pioneers, going on a 6-1 run to take the first game 25-17.
“I was just proud that the girls kept on fighting,” Webber said. “We try and play like we’re never down and that helps us out a bit. We try to play with a lot of heart and skill and leave the rest up to the moment.”
Stillwater actually grabbed an early lead in the second game, tallying the first three points, before another long 11-0 run took all the air out of the Lady Pioneers’ balloon. From there, the Lady Wolves looked like the team everyone expects to win state, as they cruised to a 25-13 victory.
“They got one good server and we got a little rattled in our serve receive and couldn’t put a ball away,” Webber said. “We had a couple of tough rotations, but I wasn’t really concerned about that. I was more concerned about the fact that my girls would stay steady and play good volleyball.”
Even after the demoralizing loss in the second game, Stillwater hung with Santa Fe early in the third match before an 8-1 run opened things up.
Trailing 21-13 and sensing their season winding down, the Lady Pioneers refused to let the season die.
Aided by senior Sarah Carpenter and a lucky bounce off a rafter, Stillwater went on a remarkable 8-1 run to close the gap to 22-21.
After trading the next five points, Santa Fe’s Jordan Spence unloaded on a kill, sending a dagger into the heart of Stillwater’s defense that ended their season with a 25-23 loss.
“We didn’t want to go out losing,” Geer said. “We wanted to fight as hard as we could and we gave everything we had.”
And while Friday’s game will mark the last time four seniors will pull on that familiar Stillwater uniform, Geer takes some solace in knowing she and her fellow seniors have set a new standard for Lady Pioneer volleyball.
“I was really shocked and surprised both times (we made it to state), but we deserved it,” Geer said. “It was a really good accomplishment.”
As for Webber, he’s already thinking about next season.
“I have one girl whose taken a ton of swings at balls and is getting more confident all the time,” Webber said. “I’ve got one girl who has set over 1,000 assists and she’s getting more and more confident about doing that job. Then I’ve got a couple of defensive hopefuls that are going to be fighting for position. Somebody’s going to have to fill Carley Geer’s shoes and we don’t quite know who that is yet.”