Gillian Tinnin wanted to graduate with outsiders holding Tahlequah volleyball in a high regard. It’s safe to say she and her teammates accomplished that this year.
Tinnin, a 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter, and the Class 5A No. 8 Lady Tigers reached the state tournament for the first time since 2009 and nearly reached the Final Four in 5A. After beating Coweta for the regional crown, Tahlequah took second-ranked Lincoln Christian to the limit in what ultimately was a 3-2 (25-21, 27-29, 26-28, 25-20, 15-6) loss for Tahlequah last Friday at Ed Dubie Field House in Sand Springs.
Still, no complaints following the early exit at the state tournament from anyone inside Tahlequah’s volleyball program.
“Are we disappointed? Sure,” Tahlequah coach Don Ogden said. “But 33-8 while taking the No. 2 team to five (sets). Played some good volleyball, and our crowd got the opportunity to come and see the state tournament and the great atmosphere, so everything is on the way up.”
Tinnin wrapped up her volleyball career Tahlequah with a team-high 20 kills against Lincoln Christian, who went on to lose to Heritage Hall in four sets in the 5A championship match. Tinnin was also named the all-tournament team following the state tournament.
The defeat against Lincoln Christian also signaled the end to two other Tahlequah volleyball careers: Kalie Champlain — four aces against the Bulldogs — and Jayden Littlechief. The Lady Tigers, though, will have some notable names back in 2014, including setter Katie Schneider (32 assists against Lincoln Christian), outside hitter Cassie Goodnight, libero Sarah Schiefelbein and middle blockers, Amanda Milnick and Alli George (12 kills against Lincoln Christian).
With a return trip to the state tournament and plenty of promising prospects returning in 2014, it was all smiles for Ogden outside of his team’s locker room at Charles Page High School.
“Unbelievable,” Ogden said when asked to describe the season. “Our seniors were great leaders. It was just a magical year. ...Tahlequah should be proud of this group.”