CATOOSA — Claremore coach Victoria Giron likes to tease Victory Christian’s Jaxie Wakley.
She’ll say, “Hey, didn’t you hear you didn’t have to show up for this game? You’re good to go.”
Those are lighthearted exchanges, but there is a little truth behind every joke.
Having coached Wakley during her time with Club ONE, a beach volleyball club team based in Tulsa, Giron knows exactly how big of a threat the 6-foot-1 middle blocker is.
Unfortunately for the fifth-ranked Lady Zebras, Wakley arrived in top form at the Catoosa Activity Center on Monday evening.
The senior tallied 17 kills and four blocks in a three-set sweep of Claremore in the Class 5A semifinals — 25-14, 25-12, 25-13 — leading the No. 1 Lady Conquerors to their third-straight state championship appearance.
Victory Christian jumped back to Class 5A this year after winning last year’s Class 4A state title. It also won the Class 5A title in 2017.
“Jaxie is really good,” Giron said. “She’s a dominant threat. She was determined enough to control the game, and she really did.”
Ruthie Udoumoh, an Oklahoma State basketball commit, caused problems as well, finishing with seven kills and a block.
Also, Bella Wakley and Riley Mattoon combined for eight kills and three blocks for Victory Christian.
It was Claremore’s fourth loss to the Lady Conquerors this season, dropping decisions of 2-0, 2-0 and 3-2 prior to the playoff matchup.
The latter of those scores came on Sept. 17 at home, and Giron said expectations were the reason her team couldn’t duplicate that success this time around.
“Last time, we weren’t expecting anything at all,” Giron said. “It was kind of like we had nothing to lose, so we just went out there and had fun. Victory wasn’t expecting us to show up either. We had a lot more energy, we were talking, we were more aggressive on serving and we did a lot better on blocking.”
The Lady Zebras (27-10) were held to three aces despite tallying 15 against Victory Christian in that final matchup of the regular season.
It was an emotional finale for the nine Claremore seniors, who accumulated an 85-72 record through their four years.
Hailey Charles notched four kills and a block to lead the Lady Zebras, and Riley Renfroe was close behind with three kills and a block.
Maddie Hardage had two kills and three blocks, while Hailey Grant managed two kills and two blocks.
Maria Nunez rounded out the seniors’ production with two aces.
Elsewhere, freshman Ella Irvin tallied two kills, and sophomore Becca Hilmes recorded an ace.
“(The seniors) left a legacy for our underclassmen,” Giron said. “There was crying and tears (in the locker room). Not so much because we lost to Victory, but because it’s over. A couple of those girls are moving on to basketball, and they’re like, ‘No, I don’t want volleyball to end.’ They want to continue, which makes me feel good as a coach.
“It’s sad that we went out to Victory that way, especially after we went to five with them the last time we played, but we tied for third out of 32 teams.”
It’ll now be up to Hilmes, Kinley Williams, Makyla Salcido and Irvin to keep the Lady Zebras program on track for another state tournament appearance.
Those four will be the lone returners from this year’s 13-girl varsity roster.
Giron’s message to them was simple.
“Now you know what it feels like, so now you know what you have to work to get to,” Giron said. “We’ll be a young group, but I hope we can continue going back-and-forth.”