After an opening set to forget, Oklahoma (10-17, 4-12 Big 12) fought its way back into a tough set two and three against Baylor (20-5, 14-2) on Wednesday in Norman.
OU’s comeback came after multiple timeouts from head coach Lindsey Gray-Walton, as she asked her squad for one more performance on the final night of the 2021 season. Regardless of the 3-0 win for Baylor, the Sooners were able to put on a show in the second and third frames.
After finishing the season in second-to-last place in the Big 12, OU will look to cement a winning mentality shown late during Wednesday’s match. Behind a group of outstanding freshmen, OU hopes to establish a successful turnaround next season.
“I think that’s what you’re most proud of as a coach is that as a team, if we’re not having the success that we want, can we still find ways that individuals are getting better or parts of our team are getting better,” Gray-Walton said afterward. “Because again, it’s the program and we might not win a championship this year, but did we do enough this year to get better and work towards winning that championship that we know is hard to get, and something that we’re always striving for.”
After a lackluster performance in the opening set, a 25-12 Baylor victory, set two brought forth a fire from OU that was missing early. Freshman outside hitter Megan Wilson led the charge with four kills in the second set and five in the third.
Wilson’s effort helped Oklahoma jump to a narrow 12-11 lead in the second set. That was the first time the Sooners led all night before eventually falling to the Bears 25-19 in the set.
The third set became the most competitive and fierce battle of the night, as both teams traded scores for six ties throughout. Oklahoma did come up short despite a great performance, as the Bears swept the Sooners with a 25-23 set three victory.
“It started there when they served the crap out of the ball, '' Gray-Walton said. “10 aces by (them) is a crazy ratio and that can really deplete or deflate a team if there’s big long runs like that.
“We again made some maybe questionable decisions and just unforced errors that really with maturity and this young group, I think they don’t make next year and beyond.”
OU held its senior night after the match where Paige Anderson, Aysia Harty, Abby Butler, Sabrina Simms and Sarah Sanders were honored. After sending those players off for the final time, Gray-Walton pivoted to finding leaders in the locker room for next season.
“I think that’s where we’ll see the biggest gains in this group next year with that emotional maturity on the floor,” Gray-Walton said. “But they got better every match.”
Although the season didn’t end the way she wanted, Gray-Walton is excited for the Sooners’ future.
“What we can build on is that we have high flyers that can hit the ball and kill the ball in Savannah (Davison), Megan (Wilson) and also Kristen Birmingham,” Gray-Walton said. Where we need to get better is just the middle of the floor and whether that’s running back row or middle attack, but we’ve got the pin attackers and we’ve got the size of the block.”