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OU volleyball: Sooners look primed for another successful year in Gray-Walton's second season

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LINDSEY GRAY-WALTON

Coach Lindsey Gray-Walton smiles while talking to a member of the team at practice Aug. 23.

Typically, a scrimmage is just another practice. A “just-for-fun” match that’s meant to simulate the actual thing. At its core, it’s designed to simply get players ready for the upcoming season — no more, no less.

In other words, it doesn’t count.

However, it didn't look like anybody told the Sooners that Saturday.

The 2019 Crimson vs Cream Scrimmage felt as if the stakes couldn’t be higher for the Sooners. The intensity that drove both squads during the match could be felt in the atmosphere surrounding McCasland Fieldhouse. Defensive specialist Keyton Kinley, the defending Big 12 Libero of the Year, said that’s the type of intensity she expects her team to have in every match this season.

“We try to hone in on three things at practice everyday — attitude, effort and energy,” Kinley said. “Coach always says if our voices are moving, our bodies are moving. We’re a team that feeds off energy, whether it’s from our team, from the coaches, from the bench, from the crowd— wherever.”

Head coach Lindsey Gray-Walton, now in her second year at Oklahoma, was happy with how both teams performed in the scrimmage.

“It’s always awesome when you get to put the jerseys on,” Gray-Walton said. “You’re playing against yourself, but there’s something special about putting the jersey on and going through the game-day simulation and having fans in the stand supporting you. It’s a really big moment for a college athlete.”

She was also happy to see the 500-plus fans that came to root on her team.

“We’ve got great fans,” Gray-Walton said. “We have an atmosphere that could be really, really special. I feel very strongly that when we have an actual opponent in there, we will truly have a competitive advantage.”

After the match concluded, the Sooners stayed and signed autographs for young fans in attendance. Coach Gray-Walton said she was touched by the number of youths that showed interest in the game of volleyball.

“That just means our game is growing,” she said. “We’ve got great role models for our young fans to look up to. It's a special moment for a student-athlete to be a part of that. I love what our girls do for the game, for the community and for the youth.”

The Sooners resume play next Friday with a trip to Fort Collins, Colorado to play in the Colorado State Invitational. Setter Kylee McLaughlin says the team needs no help being motivated.

“Last year is motivation enough for us,” McLaughlin said. “We’re ready to go from the start. No excuses, no losing games we shouldn’t lose, we’re ready to go.”

Kinley echoed her teammates words, saying missing the postseason last season is serving as motivation for every member of the team.

“In the Spring, we started the saying of 'Remember December,'” Kinley said. “The feeling of not making the tournament last December, after all the work we put in to be third in the Big 12, really stung. Now we have a standard that has to be held to get to the next level.”

Coach Gray-Walton says her team’s new motto has helped remind them that getting to the postseason requires a team effort.

“No-one gets (to the postseason) alone,” she said. “There’s 17 of us, plus our staff. Each role is so crucial to our success. No one is any less important along this journey. Everyone (on this team) knows their worth and they’re ready for their moment. Every point, every set, every play matters. We’re ready to prove how much work we put in the offseason.”

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