By Chuck Reherman
Four in a row.
Southwest Covenant earned their fourth straight trip to the state tournament and this time the Lady Patriots won’t be the in the situation they were in the previous three.
The Lady Patriots rolled to a 3-0 win over Wagoner and should be the No. 4 seed in the 4A state tournament that starts Friday in Choctaw. SWCS has been the No. 8 seed in the previous three appearances, having to face the overall No. 1 seed.
Southwest Covenant beat the No. 13 Lady Bulldogs 25-14, 25-18 and 25-22 to earn their spot in the state tournament. And, the Lady Patriots did it by controlling the tempo of the match.
The third set did get a little tight.
Wagoner trailed 21-17, but got back with 23-22 when a block from the Lady Patriots went out of bounds. On the Wagoner serve, the Lady Patriots got the set and Macie Noland scored on a spike shot for a 24-22 lead. The match point came when Wagoner was called for a foul, stepping across the line under the net.
“It’s really sweet to win that fourth in a row,” SWCS head coach Samantha Lindsey said. “And, it is really exciting to not be the eight seed. There is a re-rank on Monday, and hopefully, we won’t be ranked eighth.
“In the third set the players kind of relaxed a little bit and things got a little tighter than I would have liked. But we closed it out and didn’t let it go. That was huge we got through that little bump.
“I was a little disappointed in our play, especially early. Our focus was we didn’t want to miss serves, but overall the girls controlled the pace of the game. We had little lulls where our passing and offense was off and they would make a little push. But we withstood that and pushed back. One big thing was we won the first set and not served well. Our trend lately has been that we are receiving in the first set we have not played well. But thankfully we were able to get through the first set and it gave us some confidence and set the tone through the rest of the match.”
One highlight of the night was Noland, a senior picked up her 1,000 kill of her career midway in the second set. She went on to record 12 kills for the night. Those 1,000 were for only the past three years. Stats were not kept during her freshman year and Lindsey said Noland had at least 100 kills during her freshman season.
“That was real exciting seeing her get her 1,000th kill,” Lindsey said. “We did not keep stats her freshman year and I know she had over 100 her freshman year, but we have no proof. So, but it is still exciting to see her get over 1,000 in just three years. She has over 300 this year and had 360 her junior year.”
In the third set, the Lady Patriots broke a 3-3 tie and used kills from Noland and Kylie Moseley and a block from Moseley to take an 8-5 lead. Kills drom Alex Davis, Noland and Moseley and a pair of unforced Wagoner errors opened a 15-8 lead.
The Lady Patriots led 21-15, when Wagoner started to make their comeback. The Lady Bulldogs closed to 22-17 and then 23-19 and scored two more to make it 23-19. SWCS put the match away after it got to 23-22 with the kill from Nolan and the Wagoner mistake.
Southwest Covenant opened the match by rolling to a 10-4 lead. A kill by Davis made it 11-7 and one from Noland gave SWCS a 14-11 lead. But, the Lady Patriots served the ball out of bounds four times in the set to help keep WHS close. Back to back blocks from Davis and Moseley opened a 24-14 lead and Noland served up an ace to win the set.
The second set was also back and forth early. Noland had kills to make it 14-10, 16-10 and 17-13. Moseley and Davis teamed up on a block for a 19-14 lead. Noland then served up an ace to make it 22-14 and her 1,000th kill gave SWCS a 24-18 lead.
SWCS will get four days of work in before heading to Choctaw for the opening round of the state tournament. The second round and finals will be played on Saturday in Shawnee.
“The thing we need to work on this week is focusing on the mental side of the game,” Lindsey said. “We need to be disciplined in our defense and covering and not standing around and admiring our beautiful hits and serves. We get taken aback at times doing that.
“We also need to keep our serves in,” she said. “The second set we struggled with our serve and we need to hold ourselves to a higher expectations, especially when we are playing that are close to our level or better than us, we don’t want to give away those points.”
The Lady Patriots reached the regional finals with a 3-0 win over Chickasha. SWCS won 25-9, 25-8, 25-9, as Lindsey went to her bench early and let her younger players get court time.