Following the Sooners’ 3-1 loss to Iowa State, Lindsey Gray-Walton had a tough message for her team in the post-game huddle.
“If I was a fan today,” Oklahoma’s head coach said, “I don’t know if I would come back.”
Gray-Walton felt like her team had no passion on Friday night. Every game, she expects her squad to “take pride in their finish” and “play with relentless pursuit,” regardless of the outcome. Instead, the Sooners (10-12, 4-7 Big 12) were the antithesis of that. OU was outmatched 57-37 in kills and slumped to a .132 hitting percentage in its loss to the Cyclones (14-8, 6-5).
As of now, Gray-Walton is still looking for the reasons behind OU’s lack of fight.
“Yeah, I don't know. It's an interesting thing. We had a packed house and we have a great team in front of you,” Gray-Walton said. “No one in our league picked us to win a match and so we should take offense to that, especially — even though we're young — because we're good. And, we as a staff have to try and be the chip for our team because with youthfulness it's easy to get that armor attacked a little bit … We just played safe tonight.”
At first, Oklahoma looked like it was cruising to a victory over Iowa State after a 25-23 set one win. Freshman outside hitter/middle blocker Megan Wilson and redshirt senior outside hitter Savannah Davison — OU’s leading scorers, respectively, with 337 and 269 kills apiece — were fire and ice, garnering a collective 10 kills and two blocks in the set. Ultimately, Davison capped the set with the winning kill and gave OU a 1-0 lead.
From that point on, however, Iowa State dominated the Sooners. After falling down 1-0, the Cyclones used a rotation of senior server Jaden Newsome and freshman server/outside hitter Brooke Stonestreet in the final three sets, which resulted in eight service aces and 57 kills. The Cyclones won three consecutive sets 25-15, 25-18 and 25-17.
Like the Sooners have done all season, they failed to close out another series. This is the fifth time this season Oklahoma has boasted a set lead and lost the match.
“I think what we've learned thus far up to this point is we have been really good on night one,” Gray-Walton said. “We have been able to compete with anyone in the league, and not just compete, but win. So we're learning that we're a good team and you have to learn how to bounce back even when you lose …
“With youthfulness, right now they probably feel like they can't get a kill, can't get a block and can’t do all those things. But tomorrow the sun will come up and they will be able to do that.”
Despite Wilson, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player and Rookie of the Week, and Davison’s efforts, the rest of Oklahoma’s team struggled to get going. Much like in its 3-1 loss to Kansas on Oct. 30, no player outside of Wilson and Davison had double-digit kills. On Friday night, sophomore middle blocker Tyler Alcorn was the only player to even come close with three kills.
As the Sooners pivot to their second match against the Cyclones at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6 in Norman, their hopes of making the NCAA tournament continue to shrink every new loss in conference play.
The Sooners are now seventh in the Big 12, one spot above their finish last season, and are still looking for a couple wins to close-out the season. With season’s end approaching, OU’s urgency is lacking.
“It's not personal to our people,” Gray-Walton said. “Our personnel had a bad match tonight, and we need to have a better showing tomorrow. We just want to wash this one away and get back to our brand of volleyball.”