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Claremore junior Claudia Nieto (5) prepares to spike the ball during a match against Glenpool earlier this season.

COLLINSVILLE — Claudia Nieto has developed quite a fan base during her short

time in Claremore.

The foreign-exchange student from Barcelona, Spain, arrived about 1 ½ months ago,

and in the eyes of her spectator classmates, she is a sensation on the volleyball

court. That is evident by the celebratory praise they shower Nieto with whenever

she delivers emphatic spikes for kill after kill, point after point.

And if those in Collinsville didn’t know of her background beforehand, they certainly

do now.

A group of eight male students chanted, “She’s from Spain!” every time Nieto scored

a point for the Lady Zebras on Thursday night, and one of them even held a poster

board with those exact words on it in case their chanting fell on deaf ears.

The phrase became commonplace inside the Lady Cardinals’ gym as Nieto tallied 10

kills, four aces and three blocks while leading Class 5A No. 4 Claremore to a three-

set sweep of Collinsville — 25-18, 25-23, 25-19.

“It’s amazing, and it makes me feel so happy and so proud of what I’m doing,” Nieto

said of her classmates’ support. “It gives me energy to continue, and it makes me feel

so good. I’m always so excited for the games because of all the support they give

me.”

Nieto’s contributions are always key to the Lady Zebras’ success, but they were

especially crucial after starting junior Nicky Parziale suffered a presumed ACL tear

during pre-match warmups. Fellow junior Ella Irvin was also out with an injury,

though she is expected to return to the lineup soon.

She scored the first two points of the opening set with a block and a kill, and Abbey

Leforte followed with an ace to give Claremore a 3-0 lead. The Lady Cardinals rallied

multiple times throughout the set, but Nieto seemed to have an answer for

everything, finishing with four kills and three blocks.

Two of her kills sparked an 8-3 run to close the set.

“With Nicky out, it was tough because I just made a new lineup change with her

being in the middle, and I’m moving Claudia to the outside to get those big hits,”

Lady Zebras coach Kim Mabbott said. “It was upsetting. It’s very upsetting any time

you lose a kid, especially somebody like Nicky. She’s so versatile and such a great,

positive force on this team, so it’s such a huge blow for us. Ella Irving was out

tonight, too, so I’ve got some key players out with injuries.”

Nieto’s next point didn’t come until beyond the midway point of the second set, but

her stat line was impressive nonetheless.

She finished with four kills and an ace, with her final two kills coming on

consecutive plays to break a 23-all tie and end the Collinsville rally.

The Lady Cardinals (4-19) took an early lead in the third at 3-1, but Nieto again

ignited a run that ultimately proved to be the difference. She registered three aces

and a kill as part of a 7-1 run, and Claremore never trailed again.

“Claudia was a beast tonight. I think she left a dent in the floor, I’m not sure,”

Mabbott said sarcastically. “That’s the best game I’ve seen her play all year, honestly.

It was just a good day for her.”

Kinley Williams was the Lady Zebras’ next overall leading scorer with five kills and a

block while Becca Hilmes (three aces, one kill) and Ella Ramsey (four kills) were

close behind with four points apiece.

Claremore (14-10) returns home at 6 p.m. Monday when it hosts No. 6 Sapulpa in a

rematch of the Lady Zebras’ two-set sweep in the Coweta Invitational on Aug. 13.

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