OKAY — Just when things were starting to look bleak for the Lady Mustang volleyball team, two returning mainstays helped turn the tide and Okay went on to defeat Oklahoma Union 3-1 (25-16, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18) Thursday night at George Hopkins Field House.
After the teams split the first two sets, the Lady Cougars jumped out with the momentum in set number three and took a 14-6 lead. After the Lady Mustangs scored a couple of points to narrow the margin, Oklahoma Union called time out and new Okay coach Andrea Collins took the opportunity to give her girls a solid pep talk.
“I told them if you can’t tell it yet, we can start turning this around and win this match,” she said. “All you’ve got to do is believe in yourself and communicate a little bit better, and once that happened and we hustled a little more and stopped letting balls hit the floor, I think that was the big turnaround for us.”
At that point, with junior Lexi Erb serving, the Lady Mustangs scored four more points to pull to within two at 14-12.
The Cougars maintained a three-point lead at 16-13 when senior Shayni Green went to the service line for Okay. She served up 10 straight points and Okay (11-7) jumped out front 23-16. Oklahoma Union (5-3) battled back to make it 23-20 but Okay closed out the set with a pair of points. For the match Green had eight kills and seven service aces while Erb had six kills, a block and an ace.
The fourth set was nip and tuck with the lead changing hands twice and neither team owning more than a three-point lead until the Mustangs, leading 21-18, rattled off the final four points of the match to capture the victory.
Shayni Green was all smiles after the win and credited better ball movement and communication in the last two sets for the win.
“I think we struggled in the second set with our communication and we had a lot of unforced errors,” she said. “But in the third set we really showed that we could come back and we had the determination that we could win and we served the ball really well in the third set. We passed the ball really well and our serve/receive was pretty good,” said Green.
With just a handful of regular season games left in her first season as head coach, Collins, an Okay alum, has had some help putting together a strong season thus far.
“Taking on the head coach job was a little scary at first so I asked my old high school coach Pete Gutierrez to come back and help me and he’s really taught me a lot about how to get the girls to come together,” said Collins who was on Okay’s state championship volleyball team in 1997.
One problem area for the Lady Mustangs was at the net where they had trouble getting the ball past the Cougars Maddy McKinney who had eight kills and nine blocked shots on the night.
“That is something that we really have to work on is how to get around those blocks of the big girls,” said Collins.
The Lady Mustangs are off until next Tuesday when they host Chouteau for Senior Night and Pink Out night.