By Ben Johnson
CNHI News Service
SAND SPRINGS – Tahlequah had the state semifinals in sight. But then second-ranked Lincoln Christian rallied back.
Lincoln Christian came back from a two-sets-to-one deficit to beat Class 5A No. 8 Tahlequah 3-2 (25-21, 27-29, 26-28, 25-20, 15-6) in the first round of the state tournament at Ed Dubie Field House at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs on Friday.
“We knew going in how good they were; they weren’t ranked No. 2 for nothing,” Tahlequah coach Don Ogden said of Lincoln Christian (24-9). “We definitely knew it was a huge challenge, but the last thing we asked before we went out for game five was ‘if we were presented with the opportunity to get to 2-2 and play them to one game to 15, would you take it?’ Everybody said, ‘yeah.’ So to position ourselves like that, I’m extremely proud of (this team).”
The Lady Tigers (33-8) were primed to make their first state semifinal in school history, but Lincoln Christian coasted to a fourth-set victory then topped it off with little resistance in the final set.”
And fittingly, it was Lincoln Christian’s Serena Mar that closed things out. The 5-foot-11 junior had 29 kills, including the game-winning kill to send Lincoln Christian into a matchup with Christian Heritage today in Bixby in the state semifinals.
For Tahlequah, it was the second straight five-set match played. The Lady Tigers needed a 3-2 win over Coweta to reach the state tournament for the second time in program history.
This time, Tahlequah couldn’t close out its opponent.
“In volleyball, you wouldn’t think you’d get fatigued,” Ogden said, “but you kind of can, and sometimes that will manifest itself.”
In the second set, Tahlequah rallied from an 11-3 deficit to knot the match at one set apiece. The Lady Tigers went up 2-1 on Gillian Tinnin’s kill on the 28th point of the third set.
Lincoln Christian, though, didn’t panic.
“What we kept telling the girls was, ‘we’ve been in this situation before this year and we’ve come back and won it a couple of times,’” Lincoln Christian coach Zac Briscoe said. “...So we were confident that if we found our rhythm and started playing our game well, we could do it.”
They did and they moved on.