NORMAN, Okla. -- Despite trailing 2-1, the Oklahoma women's volleyball team (3-0) rallied to remain undefeated with a 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-18, 15-12) heart-pounding win over Tulsa, Saturday evening at McCasland Field House in front of a 1,031 fans. The victory helped the Sooners escape as the only team in the Nike Invitational with a 3-0 record.
Senior Morgan Reynolds was named tournament MVP after the 6-2 outside hitter recorded 38 kills, (3.17 p/s) one solo block and 16 block assists on the weekend. She was joined by two other Sooners in junior middle blocker Sallie McLaurin and freshman setter Julia Doyle as OU representatives on the all-tournament team.
"My biggest goal was just to be efficient," explained Reynolds. "I wanted to make sure I was scoring points for the team and less errors, personally. So I think I achieved my goal pretty well, and it's definitely something I need to carry out throughout the season - getting this honor was a nice way to start 2012, though.."
The Sooners fell behind 7-3 in the fourth set with Tulsa seeking to close out the match, but scored 11 consecutive points and used momentum to force the decisive, thrilling fifth frame.
"The key was to get a big lead against a team like that," said head coach Santiago Restrepo."If you don't get a big lead, those things that aren't that strong, aren't that good, will come back and get you. They [Tulsa] came back and they got it close, 13-11, until we finally got a side-out. It's good to build that momentum and that's such a good lead in order for you to be in the game."
OU, winners of its first three contests for the second consecutive season, used a fury of blocks to score seven of the first eight points in the final set and jump out to a commanding 10-3 lead.
Oklahoma led 13-5 before Tulsa scored six consecutive points to set up a thrilling finish. A kill from Doyle ended the Golden Hurricane run and, after Tulsa scored on an OU block error, Tulsa committed a service error to clinch OU's Nike Invitational victory.
"I think we just weathered the storm," said Restrepo. "We knew that Tulsa obviously has tremendous athletes and a very well coached team. They played very well; played well together, they have good chemistry, and they pick up a lot of balls up on defense. It's an adjustment process, especially for our freshman."
OU scored five straight points on blocks in the final stanza, as McLaurin assisted on each one and led the Sooners with 14 blocks - a new individual match record in block assists tallied five sets. OU compiled a season-high 20.5 blocks Saturday evening, including another program-best five-set performance with 41 block assists.
Tulsa won the first set 25-23. After falling behind 10-4, the Sooners climbed back to within one point at 22-21, 23-22 and 24-23 but couldn't tie the match before the Golden Hurricane won the set.
"I know after the first set I said `You are down 2-1, but you are not being aggressive, so you have to get to them because that's the only way you'll ever win,' remarked Restrepo. "We had to be aggressive on hits because we didn't have enough kills. So I said `You have to continue to be aggressive on your swings.'"
The second set was nearly as close as the first, but the Sooners prevailed for a 25-21 set win. For the second straight set, there were no lead changes. OU's biggest lead of 20-11 slowly faded but didn't vanish, and Oklahoma's lead never went below three points at the end of the set.
The third set was a back-and-forth battle that saw nine ties and five lead changes. Tulsa prevailed 25-22, giving it a 2-1 lead.
Three Sooners reached double-figure kills as Reynolds, Kierra Holst and Keila Rodriguez all had 10, while Maria Fernanda led the way for OU with a season-best 21 digs.
Oklahoma returns to action Friday, Aug. 31 through Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Northern Colorado Classic in Greeley, Colo. The Sooners will face Air Force and Northern Colorado on Friday, followed by North Dakota on Saturday.
In addition to the three Sooners, other members of the all-tournament team were Tulsa's Tyler Henderson and Jessica Adams, Western Michigan's Lena Oliver and Missouri State's Kaitlin Jaeger.
For all the latest information on Oklahoma volleyball, please log on to www.SoonerSports.com or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow Oklahoma volleyball on Twitter at @SoonersVB (https://twitter.com/SoonersVB).