My new favorite thing about volleyball?
While everyone else is scrambling to find alternate fields and dry places to play their state and regional tournament games this week, volleyball moves ahead on schedule. Even though I had to put arm floaties on my chihuahua just to send him out into my backyard, 4A volleyball’s state tournament will go off without a hitch Friday at noon inside the dry climate of the Edmond Santa Fe High School gym.
Now, here’s a look at the teams that made it to the 4A state tournament
Match 1: Christian Heritage vs. Oklahoma Bible, noon
CHA (25-9): Like several teams in this tournament, CHA has a lot of seniors, most of whom play key roles at vital positions, like Abbey McNeill at libero. Coach Heath Kufahl will put her talents up against any libero in the state. Lindsey LittleJim is a big play — or a big block — waiting to happen in the middle. Skye Coffman is a strong outside hitter as well, and CHA has come closer to beating Heritage Hall than any other 4A team this season. They’ve won 15 straight.
OBA (27-11): Without a lot of 4A schools in the immediate area, OBA ends up playing a pretty tough schedule, and coach James Ward hopes that pays dividends this week. A team without an offensive superstar lives on its defense, which will be among the best in the field this weekend. Libero Rachael Walker anchors that defense and junior setter Whitney Maple has been starting since her freshman year. Remember that 15-game winning streak for CHA? Their last loss came to OBA on Sept. 15. So there should be a rivalry aspect to this game.
Match 2: Heritage Hall vs. Lincoln Christian, 1:30 p.m.
Heritage Hall (24-6): They’ve won four straight titles, and though they lost a lot of key players and their head coach, first-year coach Greg Dewey has the Lady Chargers right back where they’ve been as the 4A favorite. Brooke Bogert and Haydn Beatty are the big-play girls, but others like Coralee Toal are just as important to their success. Dewey has said all season that he feels the 4A field is evenly matched, so we’ll see if it plays out.
Lincoln Christian (22-9): These girls are in their first state tournament with three sophomores starting and they’re opening against the four-time defending state champs. But coach Whitney Warren doesn’t sound timid about the matchup, and it didn’t come across as false bravado. Her team has good size, led by Haley Byrd. Chelsie Holt in the middle and Maddie Starr at outside hitter will make some plays, too. They have good leadership on the court and play as a team.
Match 3: Victory Christian vs. Clinton, 3 p.m.
Victory Christian (28-6): Strong hitters who played a strong schedule. Could be a dangerous combination. VC has a strong pair of middles in Caroline Arnould and Stephani Feeley, a great blocking tandem. Setter Natalie Donohue makes the offense go with her unmatched passing skills. Six players on the team have played in the state tournament before.
Clinton (24-9): Like Victory Christian, Clinton has several players with state tournament experience. Alyssa Wilson, a senior outside hitter, is the total package. At 6-foot-1 with good leaping ability, she’s built for the sport, and she hits it as hard as anyone you’ll see at the tournament the next two days. But victories will come via team chemistry, which has been a key to success all year, says coach Jackie Sternberger.
Match 4: Cascia Hall vs. Cache, 4:30 p.m.
Cascia Hall (15-16): Solid all the way around, but especially in the middle with senior Kate Brandon and sophomore Aryn Dixon, both of whom started on last year’s runner-up squad. Aside from their physical talent, they’re on-court leaders as well. And Nikkie Price, another senior, runs the show at setter for a group that relies heavily on team unity. Cascia is another team that has played a tough schedule, which is evident in the overall record, and will be ready for whatever the state tournament has to offer.
Cache (28-3): This is a team with a lot of athletic ability, and good hitters at nearly every position. Coach Stephanie Dilks says a different player is stepping up to lead the team in kills each game. Senior outside hitter Lauren Winham is a leader on the floor who makes the plays when her team needs her. And though Cache relies a lot on its six seniors, a pair of sophomores play crucial roles in setter Madison Ward and middle hitter Talia Stanley. Ward is a glue girl, doing whatever is needed to hold the team together, and Stanley is the team’s big hitter who works hard at the net on defense.
– Scott Wright, firstname.lastname@example.org