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OU volleyball: Oklahoma sweeps West Virginia, strengthens postseason case

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Brianna Kadiku and Ashlynn Dunbar

Senior Brianna Kadiku and graduate student Ashlynn Dunbar jump to block the ball against Texas Nov. 8.

Three Sooners took the court at McCasland Field House for the final time on Friday night.

Outside hitter Ashlynn Dunbar, defensive specialist Haley Sanchez and middle blocker Brianna Kadiku ended their careers with a win as Oklahoma (18-8, 10-5 Big 12) crushed West Virginia (11-16, 2-12 Big 12) in three sets (25-17, 25-17, 25-22). This marks the fifth sweep of the season for the Sooners.

Though the senior class is small, the three share one special connection — each of them are transfers. Dunbar began her Sooner playing career in August after spending three seasons at San Diego State. Sanchez and Kadiku both came to Norman in 2018 after spending two seasons each at Bakersfield College and Memphis, respectively. 

For head coach Lindsey Gray-Walton, the senior trio won’t be remembered as just transfers — they’ll be remembered as Sooners. After all, Sanchez and Kadiku arrived at OU at the same time she did and Gray-Walton heavily recruited Dunbar to OU. 

“They earned that (win),” Gray-Walton said. “As a team, we were consistent in our preparation on the court and in the scouting report ... It allowed for our seniors to have a great night out there. Emotions were high. There were a few tears shed before (the match), but then we had to lock in.

"It was awesome to see how we came out with a win there. To follow up with the emotional recovery of what is senior night, and all in to play, it speaks to their maturity and something that we've been harping on here at the end. Those are the little things that are going to help us win the big matches in the postseason."

Luckily for the Sooners, their high level of emotion was matched with a high level of play. 

The Oklahoma offense swung a .373 hitting percentage and hit five aces as the defense recorded nine blocks and held WVU to a .239 hitting percentage. The Sooners also out-assisted and had seven fewer errors than the Mountaineers.

Gray-Walton spoke highly of Kadiku and fellow outside hitter Sarah Sanders post match.

"(Kadiku) and Sanders, that's a wall over there and people just can't get through it," Gray-Walton said. "(Kadiku) was seven blocks and seven kills. That's not a double-double, but seven blocks is a big time. And standing next to Sanders in two of the three rotations. As a coach, we talk about what other teams have in their gyms that can imitate what we do, and it's very difficult as an opponent to mimic our size and physicality. Those are things that we need to ride as our strengths."

With their last home game now behind them, the Sooners have just one more match remaining on their schedule before the NCAA Tournament selections are announced on Dec. 1. Gray-Walton is more than confident that her team will be one of the 64 names called on Selection Sunday.

“We’ve put in the work,” she said. “I believe we’ve put together the resume. This team has been consistent in its preparation, and at executing at a high level.”

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