The Oklahoma Christian School Saints made a Class 4A State Quarterfinal look easy Friday afternoon, besting Bethany High School in four sets to set a date with Lincoln Christian in tomorrow’s state semifinals.
“I’m super proud of them,” head coach Rachel Sinclair said after the win. “We feel really good about the weekend and it’s going to be a weekend of really great competition. I cannot be more proud of them.”
For as easy and uneventful as they made the final three sets seem, the Saints did have to face adversity in the match’s first frame. And that adversity came at their own hand.
Of Bethany’s first 25 points Friday, 11 of the points came off errors submitted from the Saints. Following two Lowery Beard aces to start the set, Bethany started to trouble OCS with their defense at the net. After a few blocks, the Saints’ offense started overcompensating. The adjustments meant errors, and the errant shots deep meant an unsurmountable first-set advantage in Bethany’s only set win of the day.
Coach Sinclair wasn’t worried, though. She’s seen just how talented her roster has become this season. Sure, harassingly, the errors had called. Sinclair just made sure her girls didn’t give them a call back.
“We have been working really hard all season at playing with confidence and belief in ourselves, playing our game and staying mentally strong,” Sinclair said. “When you’re playing like you’re in charge, you take charge of the court.
“We were a little tight in the beginning. We had to get some jitters out. We got to our place of playing relaxed and that definitely showed in the second set.”
That second set — and even onward — were all Saints. Maggie Bookout rolled out an eight-kill, three-block set to highlight OCS’s first feather. Mary Streller added another three in the second, matched by kills from Henly Holbrook (2), Eden Dowell (2), and Avery Neild.
In total, the offense tallied an unofficial 16 kills and just four errors.
“I was expecting a break out with our whole team,” Sinclair said of Bookout and the team’s dominant frame. “I knew we would pull ahead. Once you start seeing your team rise up to that level you can see your team start running.”
The third and subsequent fourth set followed most of the same pace. Oklahoma Christian School did give Bethany five of their first eight points in the third off errors, but that was it. They’d rally and tie, and eventually take an 11-8 advantage that forced a Bethany timeout. After the break, the Saints outscored them 14-5, behind three kills from Dowell, another two from Ashton Major and four from the hand of Streller.
Streller’s strength in the third was just a precursor. She plated seven in the fourth, clinching set, and even recorded an ace. Dowell, Major and Holbrook each added another two, and they’d take the final set by double-digits at 25-15.
Oklahoma Christian School’s quarterfinal victory earns them a state semifinal qualification. There they’ll face Lincoln Christian — who won their quarterfinal in three quick sets against Crossings Christian — at 2:15 p.m. at Shawnee High School.