Jenks rallies from 2-1 deficit to defeat Norman North in five sets to claim 6A volleyball state title

By Buck Ringgold | Photos by Karen Schwartz

VERDIGRIS, Okla. — Monday night, the Jenks volleyball team rallied from a 2-1 deficit to stun defending champion Bishop Kelley in the 6A semifinals.

One night later, a similar scenario unfolded in the 6A title match, as the Trojans found themselves down 2-1 to Norman North, needing to win the last two sets to pull off another improbable win.

What, them worry?

Jenks stormed back to force a decisive fifth set, then played near-flawless volleyball that last set, scoring five of the first six points as the Trojans — the No. 4 seed entering the state tournament — capped their title march by winning in five sets (25-21, 16-25, 21-25, 25-16, 15-7).

“Well, we love five-setters,” Jenks coach Tanna Smith said. “We played excellent the fifth set.”

Her players were equally confident they were going to find a way to extend the match to five.

“I was like, ‘We need a win; we’re winning this right now,'” sophomore outside hitter Maren Johnson said. “That’s what I just kept thinking.

“I think we were just bringing a lot of energy and we were like trying to keep each other motivated, so that we can just keep going and win. … (In the fifth set) we were really hyped up and we were like, ‘We need to win this set right now.’ And now we’re state champions.”

Jenks senior middle blocker Mikiah Perdue set the tone for that fifth set by delivering back-to-back kills for the first two points, a lead the Trojans held the rest of the way.

“Going into that fifth set, I knew that was the last set I was ever going to play in my high school career,” Perdue said. “Those were the last points in my high school career that I was ever going to play.

“I knew that regardless of what happened in the end or who won, I was going to walk out of the gym knowing that I did everything I could, I gave 100 percent and regardless of the score, I tried my best.”

Jenks (31-8) then made it 4-1 on an ace from sophomore Caroline Wood, and Norman North (30-6) was called for a lift on the next point.

Everything continued to go the Trojans’ way. A serve from sophomore Audrey Wright deflected off a North player’s back for an ace, making it 7-2. Then a stuff and a kill from Johnson on consecutive plays gave Jenks a 9-3 lead.

“Maren Johnson, that was an excellent state tournament; that was probably the best I have ever seen that kid play, just moving the ball around, hitting shots, finding the holes,” Smith said.

“It’s a whole team effort to get where we needed. We played the best Jenks volleyball (Tuesday) that I’ve ever seen, with a lot of heart and a lot of effort. Just incredible.”

Jenks continued to roll, as consecutive kills from sophomore Kynli Kirkendoll and junior Noelle Prideaux made it 13-4, Trojans.

Moments later, a side out on a Norman North kill attempt enabled the Trojans to mob one another on the court, shortly followed by their vocal contingent of fellow students.

It was the first state volleyball title for Jenks since 2014, and the Trojans’ fifth in program history.

“A lot of it is just knowing coming into this state tournament, everybody’s at zero,” Perdue said. “Nobody has any wins and nobody has any losses; going into that tournament, everyone has a clean slate and you have to know that regardless of who’s across the net.

“You can do it if you step up and play your best game, and we just had to have competitive responses after every single point and we just had to know that we can win regardless of who’s across the net or who were playing; if we played our best volleyball, we could win.”

With the score tied at 6-all in the fourth set, Jenks scored eight of the next nine points. That was capped by a lengthy rally from both sides, which ended when Kirkendoll delivered an unreturnable kill.

An ace from Johnson on set point forced the deciding fifth set.

“It was really tough because we were all like tired, but then we just really wanted to win for each other and the seniors, because they’ve put in so much work in the four years they’ve been here and we just wanted to win for them and for each other really,” she said.

North tied the match at 1-all; then in the second set, the Timberwolves broke a 15-all score with four straight points. Back-to-back aces from senior Heavenn Fults gave them a 23-17 advantage, and after Jenks rallied with a 4-0 run, North was able to get the last two points go to up, 2-1.

That put the Timberwolves in position to win the first volleyball title in school history. However, Jenks had other ideas, and when the dust settled, it was the Trojans who once again found a way to win it.

“Absolutely unreal, like I’m still not sure that it actually happened,” Perdue said. “I’m happy beyond words, but I’m still trying to figure out if this is actually happening or if it’s part of a dream because it’s just so amazing and it makes me so happy.”

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