Brooke Jones could feel the adrenaline coursing through her veins.
This was it — her chance to finish her career as a Lady Zebra with three state tournament appearances in four years.
The senior delivered in emphatic fashion.
Jones went wild after tallying only one kill in the first-round match, notching 12 kills, one block and nine digs in a sweep of No. 12 Duncan — 25-12, 25-17, 25-16 — in the regional championship on Monday to lead Claremore to its third-straight Class 5A state tournament berth.
The fifth-ranked Lady Zebras (26-9) shut out Memorial in the first round as well —25-10, 25-15, 25-12 — finishing the night with an impressive 6-0 sets record.
“I realized this is the last game I’m going to get to play on this court, so I thought I’d give it my all tonight,” Jones said. “I went balls to the walls, as we say.”
“Balls to the walls” is a phrase Claremore adopted as its pump-up slogan this season, and Jones wasn’t the only one playing with the intensity the motto incites.
Being a freshman on a team with nine seniors, Ella Irvin doesn’t see as much time on the court as the upperclassmen.
However, she didn’t let the moment get to her when her time came.
Irvin accounted for two kills in the final set of the championship round, including the match-winning spike that gave the Lady Zebras a 25-16 victory.
She came away with five kills total between the two matches.
“It was exhilarating and fun,” Irvin said. “It’s a lot of fun, and I love the sport.”
Riley Renfroe also stepped her game up in the championship match, notching two kills, three aces and a block.
The senior had three kills and an ace against Memorial.
One thing that might go unnoticed, though, is Renfroe’s ability to distribute the ball to her teammates for kills.
She leads the team in assists as Claremore’s lone setter, and she had countless again on Monday.
“I think it’s a mindset,” Renfroe said. “I always see my hitters’ kills as my kills as well. I get more excited for their kills than I do my own hits most of the time. I think it’s that connection and wanting your teammates to succeed instead of taking all the glory.”
Elsewhere, Maddie Hardage tallied 14 kills, three aces and two blocks, with nine kills and two aces coming against the Lady Demons.
Hailey Grant jumped from two kills against Memorial to six kills and two blocks in the championship, while Hailey Charles increased her kills by one with seven in the second match.
Claremore third-year coach Victoria Giron said she was a little nervous coming into the tournament, but her team rose to the occasion and quickly erased all her worries.
“ … I was unsure, especially with teams coming from further out that we haven’t played before,” Giron said. “Duncan was one of those that we weren’t sure about — it was up in the air — but the girls came out, especially in the Duncan match, ready to go. They had a taste of state, and that’s how they played it.
“We’ve been preparing for state for quite some time. I’ve been saying, ‘We’re going to state, our goal is state, we’re going back to state.’ Once it was finally time to be here, the mindset was there. It wasn’t, ‘Are we going to go to state?’ It was, ‘We’re here, it’s now, let’s do it.’”
CLAREMORE 3, MEMORIAL 0
At the beginning of the season, Giron told Makyla Salcido she needed to be more aggressive with her serves.
The sophomore took that advice to heart, and she displayed her improvements on Monday afternoon.
Salcido finished with 11 aces against the Lady Chargers, including eight straight during an 11-0 run in the third set.
That streak helped push a 3-2 lead to a 14-2 advantage on the way to a 25-12 win.
“I told (Giron) I’d work on it, and I worked on it during practice and just came out with those serves,” Salcido said.
The Lady Zebras managed 27 aces against Memorial alone. Including the Duncan match, they had 35 total.
Becca Hilmes (5), Maria Nunez (4), Ella Northcutt (3), Kinley Williams (2), Hardage (1) and Renfroe (1) accounted for the remaining 16 first-match aces.
In comparison, the defense surrendered only four aces total in both matches.
Claremore plays fourth-ranked Coweta (29-11) at 10 a.m. on Monday in Catoosa in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.
The Lady Zebras fell to the Lady Tigers in four sets on Sept. 24.
“I really didn’t want that because that’s two public schools against each other,” Giron said. “There are only three of us in the state tournament (including Carl Albert), and the rest of the eight are private schools.”
The Lady Zebras failed to reach the semifinals the last two years, getting swept by powerhouse Bishop McGuinness on both occasions.
With a win over Coweta, Claremore would be matched up with the winner of No. 1 Victory Christian and No. 8 Mount St. Mary.
Although the odds are against Claremore on paper, Jones said she believes this team has a better chance than the previous two squads to advance.
“This team has a whole lot more heart this year,” Jones said. “I think there’s not as much selfishness going on. I think we’re going to go out and play as a team like we did tonight.
“We’re going to come out with so much momentum and play our hearts out on Monday.”