For the second straight year, the Claremore volleyball team has made an appearance at the 5A dance.

And for the second straight year, the Zebras have faced 5A volleyball juggernaut Bishop McGuinness in the first round.

Last year’s state opener saw Claremore ranked No. 10 in the state and was coming off an upset of the host team at the Coweta Regional. But at the state tournament at Sand Springs, it was a quick exit. The Irish won in three easy sets, 25-15, 25-11, 25-14.

This year could be different. With many returning players back for coach Victoria Giron, the Zebras are likely to put up more of a fight. The Zebras have also played a much tougher schedule than last year. They are ranked No. 7 this year with a 21-17 record. They have gone 2-6 in their eight matches against teams in the state tournament. Wins came against Coweta and Skiatook. They haven’t played McGuinness this season.

That was the good news.

The bad news is the Irish have played an even tougher schedule. McGuinness is 28-5 and has posted a 17-5 record against ranked opponents, many from Class 6A. Against teams in this year’s state tournament, McGuinness is 4-1 with the lone loss coming against No. 1-ranked Bishop Kelley.

Also, the Irish have won their last 17 games, losing just six sets in that streak. Of the 17 matches, 13 were straight set wins.

Nobody said winning state was easy. If the Zebras pull the upset of McGuinness, they have either Mount St. Mary or Carl Albert in the semifinals before probably facing Bishop Kelley in the finals. Mount St. Mary is 34-7 and Carl Albert is 20-10.

Claremore and McGuinness will play at 11:45 a.m. Monday at Heritage Hall. The semifinals will be at 5:30 p.m. The championship game will be at 7 :30 p.m. Tuesday at Crossings Christian.