NORMAN — On Senior Night and the final home game of the season, Mandy Schreiner and the rest of Norman North got to see how they match up with one of the top teams in the state heading into regionals.
Playing host to No. 4 Edmond Santa Fe (21-10), the Timberwolves (12-17) gave the Wolves all they could handle. North won a tightly contested first set behind a winning shot from Schreiner, but Santa Fe slowly gained control from there, winning the match 3-1 (24-26, 25-21, 25-20, 25-16).
It was North’s last tune-up before regional play begins in Stillwater on Thursday, and the match showed that T-Wolves can compete with some of the state’s top teams, though they still have to improve if they want to beat them.
“Overall we played decent,” coach Karin Moore said. “We made some great runs, but there were some opportunities that we missed.”
On Tuesday, it was those missed opportunities that did North in. The T-Wolves gave away several points per set that came back to haunt them in a close match.
North played most cleanly in the first set, when the T-Wolves came out on top after a set that featured six ties and numerous lead changes. Behind strong play at the net, North built a 17-12 lead before allowing Santa Fe to fight back to tie it at 18 on several missed chances.
Santa Fe tied it again at 24, winning three straight North set points to continue the set. North then scored two straight points to win, the second coming on a great individual effort by Schreiner. She served to start the point, then made a difficult play to return a ball from far outside the court on the return. Santa Fe was unable to return the ball inbounds on the ensuing volley, and North walked away with a 26-24 win.
But that was as good as it would get for the T-Wolves. Santa Fe jumped out to a big lead in the second set and, while North was able to keep within striking distance, the T-Wolves couldn’t catch up.
It was more of the same in the final two sets. North would trade leads with Santa Fe early, but slowly fell behind until a defensive error by the T-Wolves gave Santa Fe the final point it needed to win.
Still, playing one of the top teams in the state so well is a confidence-booster for North heading into Thursday’s 6 p.m. regional opener against Moore, Schreiner said.
“Everyone talks about the Edmond teams and how good they are,” she said. “We are pumped for regionals and this gives us more confidence.”
It was Schreiner’s final game at Norman North. As the only senior on the team, she was looked to as an example for the younger girls, a role she embraced this season and one her coach said she’s excelled at.
“The girls follow her example,” Moore said. “She’s a leader on the court, but she is off it as well. People respond to her and she really knows how to communicate with her teammates.”
Schreiner has high hopes for the postseason. She’s confident her team can repeat its state tournament run from a year ago, and she’s happy with the way her senior season has turned out.
“This year has been a great learning experience,” she said. “I’ve tried to always have a positive attitude and help my teammates out when they’re in a rut. Tonight was a great Senior Night.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com