By Michael Kinney
MUSTANG - To say the volleyball squads for Norman North and Jenks have some history would be an understatement.
The two teams are just a year removed from playing in the finals of the 6A state championship tournament, with the Trojans coming out on top in five sets.
With the start of the postseason just around the corner, the Timberwolves and Trojans faced off again with a title on the line. The two squads were the last ones standing at the annual Mustang Bronco Blowout Volleyball Tournament.
After five sets of intense action, it was top-ranked Jenks who once again pulled out the 3-2 victory to claim the tournament title against No. 8 Norman North Saturday at Mustang High.
“I think we had a few rough patches, but overall, we did really good,” said Jenks senior Ellie Smith. “We struggled with our energy a little bit, but we were able to overcome it as a team.”
The two teams had already played twice this season and split the first two matches. That included the Trojans (25-4) earning a 2-0 sweep Friday on the opening day of the tournament.
But the Timberwolves brought a different game with them in the championship and had their chances to take home the win.
In the fifth and final set, the squads kept going back and forth in the final set. Neither team was able to gain more than a one or two-point advantage before their opponent came back to tie the contest.
Jenks held a 15-14 lead with a chance to put the set away. However, North’s Katie Kolar came up with a kill to tie the set.
The Trojans were in the same situation again at 17-16. But this time, Kynli Kirkendoll didn’t give the Timberwolves a chance as she smashed a spike from her right side of the court to end the match.
“You can always expect it's going to be a great match against (North),” Jenks coach Tanna Smith said. “We had some moments that didn't look wonderful, but we definitely are walking away from this tournament knowing that the things that we've been wanting to work on and get better at (has come to fruition).
"We were able to do it, and we were able to do it when the pressure was on.”
Ellie Smith was joined on the all-tournament team by junior Caroline Wood.
After the teams split the first two sets, Jenks started to roll in the third as they took a 16-9 advantage.
The Timberwolves cut the lead down to 22-18, which forced the Trojans to call a time out.
With Jenks leading by two, Smith ended the set with a soft shot over the North defenders. Jenks won, 25-22.
In the fourth set, it was the Timberwolves who came out firing on all cylinders as they grabbed an early 10-4 lead. Led by Kolar, Kassidy Dominic and Riley Roberts, North continued to attack the Trojans with blocks and scrambling defense.
The Timberwolves cruised to a 25-14 victory to set up a winner-take-all fifth set, which the Trojans won.
“I think they played consistently. They played aggressively and in certain moments, they also played very fearless,” Tanna Smith said. “That's something we've been working on and I think they did a great job.”
Just to get to the finale, Jenks had to make its way through a tough field. It included wins against Norman, Norman North, OKC Storm and No. 6 Edmond North.
The Timberwolves (18-10) faced off with Norman High, the OKC Storm and Mount Saint Mary, ranked No. 1 in 5A and the defending 5A state champions.
MSM was undefeated and riding a 34-match streak when they met up with Norman North. But it was the T-Wolves who handed the Rockets their first loss of the season with a 3-0 sweep.
Mount Saint Mary (35-1) came back to beat Edmond North (18-10) to close out the tournament.
“We had a lot of good moments,” Rockets coach James Ward said. “But then there were times, especially in the Norman North match, we didn’t play as good as I would have liked to have seen.
"The reason we play this 6A tournament is so we can get exposed by powerful players and see what we really need to work on right at that last part of the season.”