Nov. 24, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma volleyball team finished the 2012 regular season in style with a thrilling four-set (3-1; 25-22, 16-25, 26-24, 25-14) victory against No. 25 Kansas State Saturday night at Ahearn Field House in Manhattan, Kan.
"It was very important for us to be on the road and play a great Kansas State team that has defeated some very strong opponents this year," explained Oklahoma head coach Santiago Restrepo.
The Sooners secured their third win of the season against AVCA top-25 opponents when they toppled the Wildcats at home in a tough-stretch that saw them face three ranked foes in their final four matches.
"It was very important for us to play well on the road. Eventually we're going to have to play away from home consistently in the NCAA Tournament, so it was key for our team to get this win tonight.
"To defeat a strong opponent on the road right now, as we end the regular season, will go lengths for us as we head into the postseason," Restrepo added.
The match marked the second time this season that K-State has fumbled against the Crimson and Cream, as OU took down the Wildcats when they held a No. 11 ranking and had an undefeated 12-0 start to the season on Sept. 19 in the Big 12 opener. It's only fitting that OU completed Big 12 play in the same fashion.
With the win, the Sooners conclude the season with a 21-10 overall, and 10-6 record in Big 12 action. The Wildcats finish the 2012 regular season with a 21-8 record on the year, and breakeven 8-8 in conference play.
The first set win was a pivotal move for Oklahoma, as the team is unscathed with a 17-0 record after taking the lead in the first. Despite the 1-0 advantage, the Sooners dropped the second 16-25, to a fiery Wildcat squad that wasn't ready to give up, and tied the match, 1-1.
An extended 26-24 third set victory proved to be the turning point for OU, as it swung the momentum straight into the fourth where the Sooners defense limited the Wildcats to just 14 points, and its offense shut down the match for the 3-1 victory.
Middle blocker Sallie McLaurin led the team in three separate categories after she struck down 14 of 27 attempts with just one error to hit .481 on the night for her 15th .400%-plus performance of her junior campaign.
"Sallie just does it all - she's just a steady force," remarked Restrepo. "She's a solid player day-in and day-out.
In addition to her offensive efforts, McLaurin added team-best six total blocks off of five block assists and one block solo against K-State.
"When its crunch time she's asked to step up, and she does just that every time. She's key for us and for our success," Restrepo added.
Sophomore outside hitter, Tara Dunn, joined McLaurin in the double-figures after she totaled eleven kills of her own in Oklahoma's efforts on the front line.
Once again, senior libero Maria Fernanda secured the Sooners backcourt with a 25-dig performance. The total against K-State is her ninth 20-plus dig performance of the season, and 44th throughout her four years in the Crimson and Cream.
It was a fitting performance as the final match of the season marked the 100th time of Fernanda's career that she has led OU in the respective category, and 30th time this season. Throughout her four years donning the Oklahoma uniform, Fernanda has played in 126 total matches, and led the Sooners in digs in all but 26 of them.
"Maria is one of the captains, and one of the leaders for the team," and you see that every time she is on the court," said Restrepo.
"Like Sallie, in key matches she has to step up, and manages to do just that - it is her leadership that gets us through," Restrepo added.
Julia Doyle, OU's freshman setter, continued a stellar rookie campaign after she notched the eighth double-double of the season and second against a ranked opponent after she totaled 29 assists and 11 digs against the Wildcats.
She grabbed her first career double-double against a ranked opponent against a No. 21 Kansas squad on Oct. 10 after she totaled a personal-best 45 assists and 13 digs in Oklahoma's 3-2 loss in McCasland Field House.
The Sooners await their fate in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced tomorrow afternoon on ESPNU at 4 p.m.
The Sooners entered 2012 after a program-best third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament following the 2011 season. Oklahoma has participated in post-season competition five of the past six years, and since the program began in 1974, the Sooners have made eight total NCAA Championship appearances including three first-round (1987, 2009, 2011), two second-round (1997, 2007) and three third-round (1988, 2006, 2010) appearances.
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