By Mike Moguin
GTR Sports Writer
Metro Christian made history when it won its first ever state championship in girls volleyball last month in Shawnee.
The Patriots, ranked No. 1 heading into the Class 3A tournament, won the final over third-ranked Oklahoma Bible (23-25, 25-14, 26-24, 24-26, 15-10) in a five-set thriller.
Cohesiveness and unity were the foundation of the Lady Patriots’ success. They were made up of a band of seniors – Lauren Gastineau, Lily Ramy, Abby Swanson, Rachel Gurley, Emily Acker, Abby Morris, Abby Fossett and Sara Thomas – who had been together since the seventh grade.
“A lot of us have known each other for a really long time,” said Ramy, a setter. “We met each other in the sixth grade before we started to play together in the seventh. We all grew together as players and are now best friends and playing with your best friends makes it a lot more fun.”
These athletes have a variety of factors of what they like about the game of volleyball.
“I love how fast-paced the game is. There is never a down moment really,” said Gastineau, the libero. “I love how tight-knit the team is. There is, like six of you on that tiny court at one moment and you really have to be in sync all the time. It’s just a great sport.” (The libero is strictly a back-row player and can only be replaced by the same player it replaces. Also, a coach can only designate one libero per set. For most teams, the libero is not a starter.)
“Playing is so much fun. You get a lot of energy and support from your team and it’s just like an ongoing game,” said Ramy.
Swanson, also a setter, gives her take on playing the role, as well as the sport.
“You can control the court and decide where the ball goes and who it goes to,” Swanson said. “Volleyball is so intense, but as a team sport, you have to rely completely on your teammates and I appreciate that about all my teammates that I’ve played with over the years.”
Winning the state title was surreal, Gastineau said.
“This team has been together since seventh grade and never in our wildest dreams did we think that this little seventh grade team would be going to state my senior year,” Gastineau said. “Our freshman year (2016 season), the seniors went to state as well, but they lost in the finals. We thought that team was amazing and now we were in the same position and to be a state champion is crazy. Last year, we never thought we would be in this position.”
“It feels amazing,” Swanson said. “We worked toward it for so many years.”
What also made it special was that the Patriots had a struggling season a year earlier.
“We lost a lot of our games and we decided we need to change our mindset,” Gastineau said.
“This is like our last year, let’s give everything we have. Let’s put it out there. This is our senior year, let’s go for it and we did,” Gastineau said with excitement. “And now look how far we’ve come.”
The girls hope their state title will give future volleyball teams at Metro something to look up to.
“I think it will set a high standard considering we’re the first class of seventh graders to start the program,” Swanson said. “I think it will give younger people hope for their volleyball futures if they start out rough. They can always get better throughout the years.
“I think most importantly is to just have fun,” Ramy said. “I know that sounds cliche, but if you’re not having fun, you’re not going to have a good time. You’re not going to want to play. You’ve got to have fun. If you’re just focused on winning the entire time, it’s going to take out everything you put into it. You want to work hard, but you also want to put in more energy in it in which you’ll put more work into it.”
Private School Quick Hits
Lincoln Christian and Victory Christian also won state championships, respectively in Classes 4A and 5A. Each school won it after winning one class down last year. It was the third straight season Victory won state.
Regent Prep football player Jack Wright set a national record for receiving touchdowns when he made his 96th TD against Watts on Oct. 11. He had another TD that game which brought him to 97 career TDs. A 6′, 180-pound North Dakota commit, Wright finished with five catches for 127 yards in the Rams’ 55-6 win that night. He stands at 99 going into November, while his team is unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Class B.