Stillwater High gave highly-ranked Edmond North quite the test Tuesday night inside Pioneer Fieldhouse, but came up just short.
The Lady Pioneers fell 3-1 to the No. 3-ranked team in Class 6A, but no set was decided by more than four points. Edmond North (21-6) took the opening set 25-21 before winning the third and fourth sets 25-23 and 25-21, respectively. Stillwater (14-14) won the second set 25-21.
Tuesday’s match marked the second-straight Stillwater home loss to a top-five team. Last week, No. 4 Norman North came to town and also won 3-1.
For first-year coach Kyle Liechti, the close losses have been a tale of two stories. On one hand, he’s proud of performance his team gave, but he’s also aggravated because of how close it came to knocking off a top-five team as the No. 11 team in 6A.
“First, and I told the girls this, I am extremely proud of how they played,” Liechti said. “Their level of play was amazing. It’s also frustrating, because we know it’s all mental. It has nothing to do with our physical ability. So, that was pretty much the message in there. We’ve got to figure it out and we’ve got one game to figure it out.”
All four sets were close the entire way through, with both teams making small runs but neither taking control of any set. Neither team ever led by more than five points in any set.
The final set, which Stillwater needed to win to force a fifth-and-deciding set, was a microchasm of the match. The Lady Pioneers actually burst out to a 5-0 lead, which was rare for the match, thanks to kills from seniors Sam Sanchez, McKenzie Vilade and Lauren Phillips. Junior Savanna Stewart also added one kill.
Stillwater maintained a small lead – as it did in previous sets – through the halfway point of the set, but Edmond North tied it up at 19. It was later tied at 21, until a mental error gave the Lady Huskies a one-point advantage.
Two kills later and Edmond North was serving match point. The Stillwater attack landed out of bounds and Edmond North took the match.
Playing well during the final points of the match has been and will continue to be an emphasis for this team. Liechti believes once his team makes that mental connection, it’s the full package.
“It’s a constant thing with this team that we need to be constantly aware of and work on,” Liechti said. “We had a four-point lead in every set we played tonight. I’m extremely proud of how they played. They played amazing. We’ve just got to make that mental connection.
“We’re right there. We’re one click away. We’re searching for that.”
The second set was the lone set Stillwater won, and it did so by winning the final few points. It was also tied at 21, but a service ace from Vilade and a kill from freshman Bess Glenn forced the first of two Edmond North timeouts.
The other came after the next point. Glenn recorded her second-straight kill and the Lady Huskies again called timeout – this time facing set point. Vilade served up an ace to cap the set and the the match.
Although the loss stings, the impact and meaning of the night wasn’t lost on Liechti. It’s Pink Out Week at SHS, so the Lady Pioneers were wearing pink jerseys and raising money for breast cancer awareness.
“It’s always a great reminder to know that you’re playing for something other than yourself,” Liechti said. “You’re playing for other people, your teammates and for people we know in the community. It’s just a great reminder.”
Stillwater has one more home match this season, but it will learn of its postseason pairing Wednesday when the 6A regional brackets are released.
On Thursday, Stillwater will host Westmoore at 6 p.m. for senior night. It will be the final home match for seven players and one manager.
“We’re hoping to come out and take care of business,” Liechti said. “I know that we’ve got a lot of seniors and I don’t know if it’s hit them yet. It will be fun to see how they play.”