Claremore volleyball is slowly adjusting to life without key starter Nicky Parziale in the lineup.
The junior suffered a season-ending injury last Thursday at Collinsville during warmups, and though the Lady Zebras managed to sweep that match, her absence has been somewhat problematic at times since then.
On Monday, Claremore — ranked fourth in Class 5A — fell in four sets at home to No. 6 Sapulpa, but coach Kim Mabbott said rescheduling the match from this Thursday to the beginning of the week might’ve had something to do with her team’s performance.
“We moved the game to Monday for Sapulpa, which is my mistake,” Mabbott said. “Mondays aren’t good days for us it seems, and that concerns me with districts being on a Monday, but I’m sure they’ll be hyped for that.”
However, when similar issues arose the next day against No. 10 Coweta, Mabbott became seriously concerned.
Despite that, Claremore (15-11) overcame a slow start and secured a win in four sets — 21-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-20.
The first set was a back-and-forth affair, and the Lady Tigers (10-12) ultimately prevailed thanks to a 6-2 run sparked by four-consecutive aces from Madison Swift. Kinley Williams, who registered eight kills in all, notched two kills and a block in the losing effort.
“I think we’re still trying to find our way without Nicky, but I think we’re slowly figuring it out,” Mabbott said. “There’s some stuff we gotta work on, absolutely. She was a huge player for us, but we’ll get it figured out. She’s a jackrabbit when it comes to the front, and she’s all over the place. Once you get used to that player being in there and then they’re gone, (other players) are like, ‘Oh, that’s my ball’ when she would normally take it.”
It looked as if the Lady Zebras were in for a similar fate in the second when Coweta built a five-point lead at 16-11, but junior Ella Irvin shifted the momentum with a kill that sent them on a 14-7 run that clinched a two-point victory. Irvin managed four of her eight kills and two of her three blocks during that set.
Irvin missed the Collinsville match last week but returned Monday against Sapulpa.
“It’s always good to have her back,” Mabbott said. “She’s a big presence as well. She had a few kills tonight and did a great job on the front row.”
The Lady Tigers used an early 8-1 run in the third to take a 9-4 lead, but Williams, Abby Dake and Irvin battled Claremore back to a 15-all tie, setting Claudia Nieto up to close the match.
As part of the Lady Zebras’ set-ending 10-5 run, Nieto scored two kills and an ace.
Parziale’s replacement, freshman Ella Ramsey, made her presence known in the fourth, helping Claremore build an early 9-3 lead with two kills. She had a kill in the first and second as well.
“She has a really strong arm, but she’s a freshman,” Mabbott said of Ramsey. “Once she starts loosening up and not being so tense, she does a pretty decent job.”
Coweta threatened to force a fifth set after rallying to an 18-all tie, but the combined efforts of Nieto, Williams and Reese Newman staved off the comeback.
In all, Nieto finished with four kills, two blocks and an ace. Other leaders included Dake with five kills and Makyla Salcido with three aces.
Claremore returns to its home court when it hosts a tournament on Friday and Saturday (Friday’s games will be played at the Claremore Rec Center). Among the teams competing will be Class 4A No. 1 Regent Prep, 4A No. 3 Victory Christian, 6A No. 14 Bartlesville, 6A No. 15 Moore, Muskogee and NOAH.
“We have some tough competition going in, which is great,” Mabbott said. “You want to get wins, but I also want to expose my kids to other teams with some different skill levels and see where we’re at.”