The Norman Transcript

September 26, 2013

Sooners win Big 12 opener

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Seemingly the perpetual Big 12 offensive player of the week, Oklahoma senior middle blocker Sallie McLuarin was at it again Wednesday night during the Sooners’ 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 23-25, 25-19) victory over Texas Tech.

McLaurin struggled in the first set, finishing with a single kill and two errors in five strikes, yielding a woeful hitting percentage of minus-.200.

Despite the slow start, McLaurin finished hitting at a sparkling .462 clip, converting a team-best 14 kills over 26 strikes; meanwhile, she committed nary an attack error the rest of the night.

Her dominance is also her versatility, a facet she offered clearly in the final set, finishing off a trio of consecutive kills over the course of four points.

For the first point, she won a battle at the net with a couple of Red Raiders. For the second, she deftly and softly directed the volleyball to the court’s back right corner, unoccupied Texas Tech defenders. The third was a conventional and unreturnable crush.

So, the Sooners had that.

Yet what made Wednesday night a particularly good night was that they had quite a bit more.

McLaurin was one of only four Sooners (13-2, 1-0 Big 12) to finish with at least 10 kills.

“When a lot of the hitters are on, that’s when we’re at our best,” she said. “I still think we can improve a lot … We have amazing hitters and they have a lot of potential. I think they showed a little bit of that tonight.”

Nobody was a better supporting actor than freshman middle blocker Micaela Spann.

Though a few errors caught up to her in the finals set, she finished with 11 kills in 27 swings and finished with a .296 hitting percentage that was at .455 after two sets and .368 after three. 

“The past couple of matches, I haven’t been playing quite what my expectations were for myself,” she said. “This match I really wanted to come out and prove who I am, especially starting conference.”

In addition to the kills, Spann also had a hand in four blocks, second on the team to McLaurin’s five.

Perhaps a nod to her talent, Sooner coach Santiago Restrepo thought she should have had more.

“She had 11 kills and hit close to .300, that was very good for her … I think she could have done a little better blocking,” he said. “But offensively, she connected very well.”

Though sophomore Kierra Holst and senior Keila Rodriguez weren’t as efficient as they might have liked, combining on 10 errors, they also combined on 22 kills.

For Texas Tech (7-9, 0-1), Breeann David and Jenna Allen combined on 39 kills, though neither hit as efficiently as McLaurin or Spann.

It might have ended a set sooner, but OU liked much of what it accomplished.

“Everybody’s very good in conference,” Restrepo said. “It was our first conference match and I think everybody was a little hesitant at the beginning … The bottom line is we won.”

Better, the Sooners’ best player was plenty good. And, she had plenty of help.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning