SOFTBALL/ VOLLEYBALL

Oklahoma Union takeover

For the first time in school history, Oklahoma Union is heading to two state tournaments in October. The softball team will compete in the Class 2A state tournament that starts Thursday in Shawnee, and the volleyball team will be among the 3A state tournament field Friday in Mustang.

“Most schools our size don’t even offer both sports,” said volleyball coach Crissy Ott, whose school ranks 219th in the state with an average daily membership of 200 students. “So for us both to be able to compete at a high level says a lot about the type of kids we have at Oklahoma Union.”

For the volleyball team, this is the fifth straight year to appear in the state tournament. The Cougars were the 2015 3A runners-up.

The softball team, however, will be make its first trip to the state tournament.

“It’s amazing,” softball coach Thad Hewitt said. “There is so much excitement in our community, our school and our fan base.”

Even more remarkable, the two teams never share athletes.

“(The players) commit to one (sport) or the other,” Hewitt said. “We give them the opportunity to try either or in junior high … but there is no competition for girls, and neither of us put pressure on the girls to play one particular sport.”

Leading the volleyball team to a 25-6 mark has been seniors Olivia Barron and Lauren Richardson, along with several hitters, including Julia Barron, Maddy McKinney, Sara McKinney and Elsa Matthews.

Pitcher Raven Hough, catcher Rylee Lemos, shortstop Chesnie Hewitt, third baseman Morgan Bellar and outfielders Faith Pippin and Rebecca Lundy have spearheaded the softball efforts to a 27-7 record.

As for town support this week, Ott is quick to point out another notable Oklahoma Union factoid.

“We don’t even really have a town,” she said of the school, nestled right off US Highway 169 near Lenapah — between Nowata and Coffeyville, Kansas. “We are literally in the middle of a pasture.”

Others in action

Other area teams in state tournament softball play this week include Pawnee (2A) and Tahlequah Sequoyah, Verdigris and Oktaha in the 3A field.

For volleyball, the 3A tournament features Lincoln Christian, Summit Christian and Holland Hall. Regent Prep, Victory Christian and Berryhill will compete for the 4A volleyball crown.

“We will not be at full strength at the state tournament due to injuries,” Regent Prep coach Mike Christie said. “But my girls are determined to go there and make some noise.”

Victory Christian will seek its second straight state championship after winning the 5A title last season.

“The girls’ confidence level is very high going into (the state tournament) because of last year’s success,” Victory Christian coach Dan Donohue said. “We are also very seasoned after the tough schedule we have played this year.”

— Ben Johnson, for the Tulsa World