Oklahoma beats Texas to secure second straight Women’s College World Series title

Jocelyn Alo #78 of the Oklahoma Sooners is handed the NCAA trophy as Alyssa Brito #33 and the rest of the team celebrate their win over the Texas Longhorns during the NCAA Women's College World Series.
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Jocelyn Alo and Tiare Jennings put Oklahoma on the brink of a repeat national championship with their stellar play throughout the Women’s College World Series.

Their teammates brought it home.

Kinzie Hansen and Grace Lyons hit three-run homers, Jayda Coleman made spectacular defensive plays and No. 1 seed Oklahoma defeated unseeded Texas 10-5 on Thursday night to win its second straight title.

Alo, the two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, was named Most Outstanding Player. She hit .667 for the World Series, tied Jennings for a series-record five home runs and set a series mark with 12 runs scored.

Alo ends her career with a Division I record 122 home runs. Most important to her, she ended one of the greatest college careers with a win.

“These are the moments that I’ll remember forever,” she said. “I’m just happy to be going out top and to just know that all the hard work we put in paid off.”

The Sooners (59-3) claimed the best-of-three series against their Big 12 rival 2-0 after winning Game 1 on Wednesday 16-1 with a record six home runs. It was Oklahoma’s sixth overall national championship and fifth in the past nine World Series.

Alo hit a hard single in her final at-bat in the sixth inning and later scored. In the seventh, she stepped in to play left field and caught two fly balls for outs before leaving the game to a standing ovation.

The future looks bright for the Sooners. Jennings — just a sophomore — set a World Series record with 15 RBIs. Coleman is a sophomore, too.

And then there’s Oklahoma’s Jordy Bahl (22-1). The NFCA Freshman of the Year settled down after a rough start. She allowed two runs and four hits in four innings.

“We’re all competitors, and when you are a competitor, if there’s something else out there you can go get, you’re going to want to go get it,” Bahl said. “So I don’t ever worry about us ever losing our hunger to win more national championships. I’m going to enjoy this one.”

Texas wasn’t even expected to reach the World Series, but the Longhorns expected a better performance than they gave in Game 1. Texas coach Mike White called Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma embarrassing and thought Thursday’s effort was better.

“My job was to pick them back up, (have them) come back out and fight,” White said. “Do the Texas fight. I thought we did that. I thought we fought well. Just didn’t turn out our way.”

Texas pitcher Estelle Czech (13-2) began Thursday’s game with three shutout innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth and fifth and was replaced.

Mia Scott hit a three-run homer and JJ Smith had two hits for the Longhorns (47-22-1), who had survived six elimination games in NCAA tournament play before Thursday.

“I think it was all worth it in the end to say that we left it all out there and emptied our gas tanks to get to where we are,” Texas catcher Mary Iakopo said.

The Longhorns looked ready to compete on Thursday. They loaded the bases with no outs in the first and scored two runs, but Coleman jumped above the fence for a spectacular grab that robbed Courtney Day of a two-run homer and ended the inning.

“I have seen Jayda do that over and over and over in practice, but when it’s in a game and she has your back as well as everyone else on our defense, that stuff fires me up more than any strikeout ever will,” Bahl said. “It gives us momentum and really just lets me take a deep breath because they got me.”

Oklahoma finally got on the board in the fourth. After the Sooners got their first run following a throwing error, Taylon Snow’s RBI single tied the game at 2-all.

In the fourth, Coleman had another defensive gem, throwing out a Texas runner at second from the warning track.

Alyssa Brito’s RBI double in the fifth gave Oklahoma the lead for the first time, and Hansen’s blast later in the inning put the Sooners up 6-2.

The crowd stood for Alo’s at-bat in the sixth, hoping for one more blast. Instead, her single loaded the bases. Two batters later, Lyons’ homer made it 10-2.

Then Alo had her moment in the seventh. Tears streamed down her face as she ran off the field.

“Going back-to-back — no better way to finish your career,” Alo said. “I’ve had a lovely five years here, and it’s been hard at times, but I wouldn’t change it … I’ve enjoyed my journey here, and sad that it’s coming to an end.”

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.