CATOOSA — The Lady Zebras already underestimated Coweta once this season.
They made sure that didn’t happen again.
Less than a month after losing to the Lady Tigers in four sets, No. 5 Claremore atoned for its errors with an impressive sweep of the fourth-ranked squad — 25-16, 25-22, 25-17 — in the Class 5A state quarterfinals at the Catoosa Activity Center on Monday morning.
The win sent the Lady Zebras to the state semifinals for the first time in school history. They were eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2017 and 2018.
Claremore’s semifinal match against No. 1 Victory Christian took place after press time. Check the Wednesday edition for a full recap on the contest.
There was never a doubt in the mind of Maddie Hardage, who notched the final kill of the third set to secure the momentous victory.
“Earlier in the season when we played Coweta, we played bad,” Hardage said. “But we were all focused and ready to come out for this one.”
Claremore (27-9) is 7-0 since that loss on Sept. 24, dropping only two sets in the process.
Lady Zebras coach Victoria Giron said the biggest difference between the two matches with Coweta was her team’s mental preparedness.
“When we walked in last time we played them, we expected to beat them,” Giron said. “The girls were mentally exhausted and physically exhausted because we had played six games in-a-row and a tournament before that.”
There was no exhaustion to speak of on Monday.
Claremore trailed in all three sets, but its confidence never wavered.
The closest the Lady Zebras came to defeat was when Coweta’s 6-foot-3 inside blocker Linzy Dill went down with an ankle injury.
Claremore led 11-7 at that point, but the Lady Tigers used Dill’s untimely departure as a momentum boost, springing together an 11-4 run to take an 18-15 advantage.
Giron said Dill wasn’t her biggest concern coming in, but she knew Coweta would respond in a strong manner.
“When (Dill) went down, I was a little worried because I knew the team camaraderie for Coweta would pull together,” Giron said.
“She did give some good kills when she got the ball, but we were more worried about their other middle, who does a better job blocking, and their outsides who get that deep corner, which most volleyball teams have struggles.”
However, with the help of a play reversal and kills from Hardage and Hailey Charles, Claremore fought back with a 10-4 run to win the set.
The reversal, which was changed to a Coweta net violation from what was originally called a side out against the Lady Zebras, tied the set at 19, and Claremore went on to score six of the next nine points.
Hardage and Brooke Jones each finished with more than 10 kills to lead Claremore.