After losing a tough five-game match in the opening round of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament in 2017, the Southwest Covenant volleyball team was preparing to enter the 2018 season as one of the favorites to win a state title.
Instead, the OSSAA dealt the Patriots a blow and changed the rule that says private schools must move up a class if they qualify for the state tournament in two-out-of-three years. Previously, the rule stated three-out-of-five years, which would have kept Southwest Covenant in 3A for at least one more season.
With the new ruling, the mentality had to change entering the 2018 season. Instead of making it the team’s goal to win a state championship, Southwest Covenant coach Samantha Lindsey said she made it the team’s goal to make it to the 4A state tournament.
Mission accomplished for the Patriots after they stunned Tahlequah-Sequoyah in a five-game regional title match last Thursday.
“We didn’t know what to expect since we had to go up against teams from the eastern part of the state,” Southwest Covenant coach Samantha Lindsey said. “Verdigris came out strong in that opening match. We played solid. They made us earn everything. We used up a lot of energy and showed a lot of mental toughness to never give up in that second match. We never gave up, and we had a lot of ups and downs. We came together as a team. We had a positive attitude. That was an emotionally draining match.”
Southwest Covenant’s reward for making it to the state tournament for the third consecutive year and its first year in 4A was an 8-seed and a match up with Class 4A four-time defending state champion Christian Heritage Academy at 10 a.m. Friday at Moore High School in the quarterfinal round of the single-elimination state tournament.
“We hope we can carry our momentum into the state tournament,” Lindsey said. “Having to move up a class was tough for us. We made it our goal to get to the state tournament, but the regional showed us that we can hang with these teams. It was a tough draw getting the four-time defending state champs, but we are not going to lie down. We have nothing to lose in this match. We are going to play our hearts out.”
If the Patriots can pull off the upset in the opening round, they will take on the winner of Bethany and Regent Prep at 9 a.m. Saturday at Moore High School. The state championship match will be played at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Moore.
The other four teams in the state tournament are Oklahoma Christian School, Crossings Christian School, Victory Christian School and Berryhill.
“The regional was a crazy experience,” Southwest Covenant junior Kylie Moseley said. “Everyone was tired at the end, but we just kept playing hard. The state tournament will be a bigger challenge this year because we had to move up classes. We will work as a team. Christian Heritage has all the pressure and we are going to try and put the pressure on them. We don’t have any pressure on us at all.”