Mount St. Mary printed up T-shirts for the Rockets' inaugural trip to the Class 4A state volleyball tournament with a simple message — “The Legacy Starts With Us.”
The second-ranked Rockets might have been state-tournament rookies but they played like poised veterans on Friday during their first-round match, dispatching No. 11 Catoosa 25-20, 25-19, 25-18 at Westmoore High School.
Mount St. Mary (27-8) advanced to Saturday's 1:45 p.m. semifinal against longtime rival Oklahoma Christian School. No. 10 OCS (28-7) beat fourth-ranked Sequoyah-Tahlequah 25-18, 25-20, 25-18. The Saints and Mount St. Mary have split a pair of matches this season.
In the noon semifinal, top-ranked Elgin (28-5), the defending champion, will face No. 7 Rejoice Christian (26-13) of Owasso. Elgin downed Verdigris while Rejoice Christian beat Weatherford in first-round matches.
The title match will immediately follow the semifinals, at 3:45 p.m.
Mount St. Mary featured a balanced offensive attack against Catoosa (22-19), which was making its ninth state-tournament appearance in the last 10 years. Five Rockets — Madison Rubino, Adrienne Berry, Mandy Martincich, Sarah Jekel and Jill Ruhl — had at least five kills, with Rubino leading the way with nine.
“We have a really good setter in Sarah,” Rubino said. “She really works on getting it to every girl. Every girl has a chance to put the ball down and it's great.”
The Rockets trailed only once, at 5-4 in the first set. They scored five straight points to seize control, although they never quite pulled away. Catoosa pulled within 22-20, but Mount St. Mary closed the set with a kill by Berry, a service ace by libero Jordan Hagood and a kill by Rubino.
Consecutive kills by Berry, Ruhl and Jekel early in the second set spurred the Rockets to a quick lead they never relinquished. Catoosa was within 13-12 in the third set before kills by Ruhl and Jekel, followed by a net violation on the Indians, gave the Rockets a four-point cushion. Berry closed out the set and match with a kill.
“I was really nervous at first, but once our team came together, we started getting excited and all that nervousness changed to excitement,” Rubino said.
Added coach Mary Jekel: “I always tell them the difference between excitement and nerves is preparation and they showed it today.”