By Chuck Reherman
TAHLEQUAH – State tournament bound.
The road to a third state tournament berth for Southwest Covenant Schools took a detour through Tahlequah and the Lady Patriots maneuvered through that long road trip to earn that spot.
No. 9 ranked Southwest Covenant beat the host team No. 8 ranked Sequoyah 3-2 in the finals to earn the state berth. SWCS had beaten Verdigris 3-0 in the opening
It is the first year for the Lady Patriots in class 4A and it will be their first trip to that tournament after two straight to the class 3A state tournament. The class 4A state tournament will be played at Moore High School beginning Friday. SWCS will more than likely draw No. 1 Christian Heritage or No. 2 Victory Christian in the opening round since the Lady Patriots will be either the No. 8 or 7 seed.
The Lady Patriots came back from down one set and a 2-1 deficit to tie and force a fifth set with Sequoyah in the finals. And, with that set tied 11-11, SWCS had to come back from a deficit to tie 15-15, then again 16-16 before scoring the final two points to take an 18-16 win and the regional title.
SWCS lost the first set 25-22, won the second 30-28, but lost the third 25-12. The Lady Patriots forced the fifth and deciding set with a 25-18 win in the fourth.
“It’s a great feeling to qualify for state in our first year in class 4A, especially with as young of a team we have,” SWCS head coach Samantha Lindsey said. “It was unreal that three of our eight sets went past normal end score. This regional was not easy, but our girl showed a lot of fight.
“We had a tough first match with Verdigris that all three sets were close,” she added. “We then had to turn around and play Sequoyah right after that, but the girls played with a lot of heart and desire. And, we were tired after that second match and exhausted when we got home. It was just before 2 a.m. when we got home.”
The Lady Patriots trailed Sequoyah 10-5 in the fifth set and was one point away from their season coming to an end, 14-12. SWCS scored the next two points to forge a 14-14 tie. The Lady Patriots tied the set again 15-15 and used a Macie Noland kill after a long rally to make it 16-16.
Another long rally went SWCS’ way and a 17-16 lead, the final point came after a one minute and 30 second rally as Emma Riggs’ shot went off the hands of two Sequoyah blockers and fell to the court. SWCS made three diving saves on the play and dug one ball out of the net to keep the rally alive.
“Those last four points were exhausting,” Lindsey said. “There were a lot of long rallies in the fifth set and the last four points were all like the last point.
“Sequoyah was tougher then I expected,” he said. “They had a really good setter and middle and they were very scrappy. They also had four seniors that all were major contributors, so they had some extra motivation and definitely fought hard.”
In the opening match, the Lady Patriots won in three sets, but had a tough match with Verdigigris. SWCS won 30-28, 25-21 and 25-22.
“Verdigris put up a really tough match against us,” Lindsey said. “That used a lot of our energy, It was very difficult to then play Sequoyah immediately after that.”
By Chuck Reherman