Oklahoma high school volleyball: North Rock Creek looking to make noise at state tournament in first year of varsity play
SHAWNEE — Jamie Hancock didn’t know what to expect.
North Rock Creek’s volleyball coach had an open mind heading into her first season as coach. It was also the team’s first season of varsity competition.
The new high school, which sits about six miles north of Shawnee, doesn’t have any seniors yet. The school is mostly freshmen and sophomores.
The volleyball team has 11 players, and only one of them is an upperclassman, junior Chloe Carter. The rest are younger players who haven’t been in the spotlight before, but that hasn’t mattered for the Cougars.
“I knew we had strong players, but we also went against some strong teams,” Hancock said. “A big eye opener was going to Noble and some of the Class 5A tournaments, getting second and beating some 5A schools.
“That’s when I was like, ‘OK. We can do this. We have a team, we can compete.’”
North Rock Creek is riding high heading into the Class 3A state tournament, which begins Friday at Blanchard High School. The Cougars are 18-2, their only losses coming against Class 6A Sand Springs and Class 5A Lawton MacArthur. Fifth-seeded North Rock Creek opens play at 10 a.m. Friday against No. 4 Oklahoma Christian School.
On top of it being the first year of varsity competition, Hancock said the Cougars also faced plenty of adversity throughout the season.
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North Rock Creek had to deal with quarantines and game cancellations because of the coronavirus pandemic. Four starters were out the two weeks before regionals, leaving only seven players to finish the season.
“I was a nervous wreck stepping on the court at regionals,” Hancock said. “We hadn’t played together in so long, but everybody showed up.”
North Rock Creek topped Corn Bible Academy and Southwest Covenant to earn the program’s first regional championship, but more importantly, a state tournament berth.
In addition to Carter, Abigail Smith and Sydney Balmes have been important pieces to North Rock Creek’s success. Smith is one of the state’s top setters and is a strong leader. Balmes is a dominant hitter and reads the court well.
It has been a wildly successful first season for North Rock Creek’s volleyball program, but lofty goals remain beginning Friday.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how our girls compete,” Hancock said. “We’re kind of the underdogs everywhere we go, but our team is really dedicated to making a name for ourselves. I’m hoping everybody shows up and shows out.”