High school column: Reunion celebrates BTW’s historic ’76 volleyball team

High school column: Reunion celebrates BTW's historic '76 volleyball team

It has been 45 years since Booker T. Washington became the only Tulsa Public Schools team to win a state volleyball title.

This week, that team held a reunion at BTW. For coach Bill Bond on Tuesday, it was his first opportunity since 1976 to see some of the seniors from that team.

“It’s fantastic — a lot of hugs,” Bond said. “They were such great girls to work with. They did exactly what you told them to. And when they saw the success from that because they were doing exactly the right thing, it got better and better.”

Bond was in his first year leading the team after the previous head coach, Linda Hall, took another assignment. Hall, assisted by Rosemary Harper, led the Lady Hornets to a third-place state finish in 1974 and a runner-up finish in ‘75.

Bond, who had been on John Brown University’s swimming team and was the Hornets’ swimming coach, learned a lot about volleyball while in college and convinced TPS athletic director Ed Lacy that he was the right person to choose as Hall’s successor.

“I told Ed that if he’d let me coach those girls we’d probably win a state championship,” said Bond, who is an Edison graduate and now lives in Oklahoma City.

Bond and his players recalled that when they began practicing he put the net at the boys’ height, 6 inches higher, but he didn’t tell them.

“They’re up there smashing the ball at this height, and I see they can move, they can do everything they are supposed to do,” Bond said. “And they were all focused big time. And then we started working on how to become a team.”

And that chemistry still exists 45 years later.

Two players, Shardell Johnson and Gaylyn Norman, traveled from Georgia for the reunion.

“It’s wonderful, a blessing we’re all still alive,” Norman said.

Their teammate Daisetta Montgomery added, “I love these people, I feel we’ve picked up just where we left off. We left high school as great friends and we’re still great friends. We haven’t lost a beat with each other.”

Bond said that Montgomery, who continued her volleyball career at Northeastern State, “could set like nobody’s business,” and that teammate Ramona Smoote “could really smack it.”

Bond remembers immediately seeing Johnson’s potential at a cheerleading trial. Johnson, a spiker, later played for the University of Central Oklahoma.

“She could jump and hang in the air, a great athlete,” Bond said.

And she could also intimidate opponents as Bond recalls she did in the state finals at the University of Tulsa. Back then, the volleyball state tournament was held in the spring.

“When we warmed up, and take the ball and toss it up, Shardell would hit and purposely just smashed it,” Bond said. “When she would go up (during the match) they (opponents) would just would run and hide — that was really fun to watch.”

Smoote was another member of the “Senior Six” that started playing together as sophomores in 1973-74.

“In many ways we were like a science project,” Smoote said. “It was also the year of many ‘firsts.’ First year of voluntary integration, an idea that was uniquely unheard of in an ever-changing world or school system for that matter. First magnet school in the nation, first college courses in a secondary learning environment, first Japanese and Russian language taught, first girls athletics programs, and so on. Our coaches Linda Hall and Rosemary Harper did not realize at the time that they were creating a little history of their own by coaching such a determined group of young ladies.

“By the time we were juniors we worked even harder because we lost our team manager, Charity Horne in a fatal car accident. We desperately wanted to pay homage to her.”

Johnson added, “Going forward the next year (as seniors) we were playing in honor of her and that’s what drove us forward as we continued.”

She recalls about Bond’s coaching style, “He was laid back, but you still knew you had to do what you had to do. It wasn’t in a real demanding type of way, but you just knew he meant business.

“By time we got to our senior year we started to jell, knowing the ins and out of our teammates. We just knew what the other one was thinking, all the dots connected.”

In ‘76, there was only one classification for volleyball (a second class was added in ‘79) and the OSSAA also held championships for boys teams (through ‘86).

Smoote said, “Coach Bill Bond tweaked the well-oiled machine by making us believe in ourselves and placing confidence in our ability to succeed. As a team we remained focused on the target. Losing was not an option. We persevered with a feverish determination. `Keep your eye on the gold’ we told ourselves. We were proof that hard work pays off.”

Other seniors on the ‘76 title team were Linda Goodbary and Michelle Fields.

BTW was the last Tulsa-area school to win the girls state title until Bishop Kelley and Collinsville each won a championship in 1989. That was the start of Kelley’s dynasty that has included 19 state titles in the past 32 seasons.

In ‘81, Bond coached the Hornets to a boys swimming title and the girls to a runner-up finish before moving into administration. He coached volleyball for five seasons and enjoyed his trip Tuesday to Tulsa to relive his first state title.

“It was a wonderful day of reminiscing, so much history in that school,” Bond said Wednesday. “I’m proud to have been a small part of it.”

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