“I’m hoping that it all gels together.”
Burns said she’s looking for her offense to “play smart.” That means mixing it up between hard spikes and softer tips, and it also means keeping those tips flat enough and tight enough to the net that they don’t turn into free passes for the other side.
“We put the elastic up at the top of the antennas, and that was our goal, was to keep things under,” Burns said.
“They need to find the holes on the floor and put the balls in the holes.”
Though it hasn’t always translated into wins, Burns said she’s been happiest with her team’s mental development through the season. The Lady Buffs have learned how to maintain team spirit and effort even in a loss, and how to shrug off mistakes before they turn into long scoring runs for opponents.
“We do that with a lot of error-correction,” Burns said. “If a rally ends during practice, try to toss the ball or hit the ball or whatever to the person who made the mistake and allow them to correct their error and continue on with the rally. I feel that gives the girls some confidence.”
It also simulates a common volleyball strategy of targeting the weakest player on a team, especially on serve-receive.
If the Lady Buffs get past Tahlequah, the eighth-ranked team in 5A who went 31-7 in the regular season, they’ll face either Coweta or Skiatook in the finals, the winner then going onto State. Burns said the Lady Buffs saw Skiatook a little during a summer tournament at Catoosa, but they’ll do most of their scouting during the Skiatook-Coweta semifinal, which will take place after Tahlequah-McAlester.
As Regionals are single-elimination tournaments, a loss to Tahlequah would mean the end to McAlester’s season and the end to volleyball for seniors Kylie Murdaugh, Skyler LeFors and Krystal Hixson. Burns said Murdaugh has really embraced the physical demands of being a middle blocker, which is often called the team’s “workhorse” because the middle has to block from three different spots at the net and also hit.