Gray-Walton Era Begins with Win
NORMAN – In its first game under head coach Lindsey Gray-Walton, the Oklahoma volleyball team swept Xavier 3-0 to open the NIU Invitational on Friday.
The Sooners clinched their first match of the season by scores of 25-22, 26-24 and 25-20.
“All things considered – first-day jitters, the unknown going into a match where your scouting report is very sparse – our team responded,” Gray-Walton said. “We were able to care about what we did on our side of the ball, and each set we got a little bit cleaner in our communication and our fundamental details. I’m so proud of them for the effort, and they earned this one. They’ve earned it since January, and I was happy to see it happen for them today.”
Senior outside hitter Alyssa Enneking matched her own program record with 19 kills in a three-set match, finishing the day hitting .432. She totaled 13 digs to register her first double-double of the season and the 25th of her career.
Sophomore setter Kylee McLaughlin led all players with 42 assists, adding a kill and seven digs. Xavier’s Meredith Klare recorded a match-high 17 digs, while Enneking and sophomore defensive specialist Keyton Kinley led the Sooners with 13 apiece.
After the first set opened in an 8-8 tie, the Sooners went on a 7-1 run to establish a six-point lead. However, the Musketeers went on a run of their own to take a 20-19 lead.
Sarah Maras and Enneking drilled back-to-back kills to put OU back on top. The Sooners then scored four of the next six points, including three straight kills from Paige Anderson, Enneking and Sarah Sanders to close out the set.
The Sooners jumped out to an early 8-5 lead in the second set, but the Musketeers battled back to knot the set at 10-10. The two teams remained neck-and-neck until the Sooners scored three straight points to take a 24-21 lead and earn set point.
The Musketeers responded and tied the set up again at 24-24. After an Xavier service error gave the Sooners an advantage, a block assist from Brianna Kadiku and Enneking sealed the second set victory.
Early in the final set, the Sooners used a three-point run to take an 11-7 lead, but the Musketeers claimed the next three points to come within one.
Oklahoma responded by winning 11 of the next 16 points, capped by a service ace from McLaughlin, to grow a 22-15 lead and force an Xavier timeout. Kills from Enneking, Sanders and Kadiku accounted for the Sooners’ final points that clinched the victory.
The NIU Invitational continues Saturday as the Sooners face DePaul at 11 a.m. CT and host school Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. CT. Saturday evening's match will be streamed on NIU All-Access for a fee, and live stats for both contests will be available via NIUHuskies.com.
“I think this weekend especially, we worry about us and what we can do,” Gray-Walton said. “If we can take care of the fundamental principles of success that we believe in as a program, we’re a tough team to beat.”