NORMAN, Okla. —It seemed like a cruel way for the Wichita State volleyball team's season to end, in the place where its promise began — in Norman.
It was here the Shockers swept Oklahoma to open the season that was ultimately crippled — once again — by an injury to a starter, this time senior middle blocker Sarah McGee.
And it was here, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where WSU had its season ended by the Sooners in a three-set sweep (29-27, 25-21, 25-14) on Friday night at McCasland Field House.
"We started out injured and we ended the season injured," WSU coach Chris Lamb said. "It's been amazing, in my mind, how many times we've had to finish the season without one of our starters. It's just been really odd."
Without McGee's presence in the middle, the Shockers (21-8) were overmatched. OU (22-10) established itself in the middle, which left its outside hitters with one-on-one matchups. They took advantage, hitting .282 for the match.
The crucial momentum swing of winning the first set offered itself to both teams, but OU became the beneficiary when WSU could not overcome its 10 errors.
After scoring four straight points to take a 25-24 lead, Wichita State missed an opportunity to take the set on a hitting error from Camri Zwiesler. WSU had another chance to win the set at 27-26, but once again it was foiled by a hitting error. OU won the next two points to win 29-27.
The undeniable momentum swung toward Oklahoma.
"Especially since there were so many fans from Wichita State here," said OU's Brianne Barker, who had the set-winning kill. "I think that shut their fans up a little bit and really helped us."
Lamb pointed out that Wichita State actually out-scored the Sooners in points the first set.
"Even though we did all the work to earn the points, we gave a lot back," Lamb said. "The errors told the story tonight."
Junior libero Sarah Waldorf played an outstanding defensive game, digging 22 balls to keep the Shockers' attack alive. But more times than not, WSU's attack didn't have the firepower to score. WSU hit .113 for the match.
"You can only dig so many balls," Lamb said. "At some point you have to score. We just couldn't get enough production elsewhere in the match."
Wichita State played well in the second set, but a 6-2 spurt by OU gave the Sooners a 21-17 cushion. The teams traded points from there and OU took the set 25-21.
"I thought we were going to turn it around after the second set," said Zwiesler, who finished with a team-high 11 kills. "Coming out in the third game we were all pumped up and I honestly don't know what happened."
It was more about what didn't happen. The Shockers lost the first three points and, for the first time of the night, looked completely out of synch.
The match ended with a lack of communication on a serve, as two Shockers let the ball fall to the ground. The play could have summed up WSU's night — it just never found its groove.
"I definitely think we didn't get in a rhythm," Waldorf said. "It felt different on the floor and it was different."
The loss snaps a five-match winning streak against Oklahoma and extends a five-match losing streak in the NCAA Tournament to Big 12 host schools for WSU.
"When a team beats you in the mouth over and over and over and over again, you eventually are going to get tired of it," OU coach Santiago Restrepo said. "You're going to say, 'Enough is enough.' "