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GIRLS SOCCER: Molini's switch from private to public school leads to state championship

May 21—Layney Molini's transition from playing for a private school to leading a public school to a state championship has been nothing short of noteworthy.

Molini, the top player for Oologah girls soccer, played a pivotal role in helping the Lady Mustangs secure the 2024 Class 4A state championship. The junior showcased her skills throughout the playoffs, scoring nine goals in just four games, including two crucial goals in Oologah's 2-1 victory over Weatherford in the championship game.

"I've always been a competitor — I want to win no matter what," Molini said. "This just feels great to finally go out and get a big win like this. But also, I think it's just super important — especially for our school and for the girls — because we're finally getting support out for girls sports. I think that means a lot to me, especially in soccer. You don't see very many fans at soccer games. It's on the same field as a football field, so you can compare it to that, and there's usually half the crowd, if not less. Finally, towards the end of the season, we made this run and it just showed how much we can do. People started seeing how good we can do, and then they wanted to come out and support us. I think that was the most amazing part, and I hope all the support leads into next season."

This victory not only marked a significant achievement for the Lady Mustangs but also ended the dominance of private schools in Class 4A soccer. Holland Hall had claimed the championship for the past two years before moving up to Class 5A, where it secured its third-consecutive title.

However, Molini's path to success hasn't always been in the public school system.

Prior to her sophomore year, she played for Rejoice Christian and was instrumental in helping the Lady Eagles reach the Class 3A state quarterfinals in 2022. Despite their 4-2 loss to Verdigris, Molini had a successful season and gained valuable experience.

After her freshman year, Molini made the decision to switch from a private school to a public school.

She had several options available to her but ultimately chose Oologah. This decision proved to be a turning point in her high school career as she led the Lady Mustangs to their first girls soccer championship victory and the school's first title — regardless of gender — since 2012.

Reflecting on her decision, Molini expressed her belief that it was the right move for her.

"I think in my personal life, I was just ready for a switch," Molini said. "I think with me and my faith, that wasn't the right place for me at the right time, so I decided that I was going to make a switch. It was a hard decision deciding where to go, and I didn't really know very many people from Oologah or any other schools that were options. But I just trusted the Lord, and I made the switch. I think it was probably one of the best decisions I've made in my life. I have my best friends here; I wouldn't change a thing.

"If I could go back in time and do it all over again, I would."

Private schools in Oklahoma often receive criticism for their perceived advantages in high school sports, including recruiting players and offering scholarships.

To address this issue, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) introduced Rule 14, which aimed to achieve competitive balance by elevating private schools to higher athletic classifications based on sustained postseason success.

However, private schools challenged the constitutionality of the rule's recent amendments, leading to a court battle.

In a recent court ruling, Rule 14 was upheld, but amendments made to the rule were voided. The ruling reinstated the Class 5A cap for private schools, preventing them from advancing beyond that classification.

Despite this controversy, private schools will continue to be subject to classification changes based on postseason success.

Although she has experienced success on both sides of the private versus public school debate, Molini remains focused on the joy and camaraderie she experiences playing high school soccer. She treasures the friendships she has made and the shared triumphs with her teammates.

"I just appreciate the fact that it's with this team," Molini said. "I don't really necessarily think about private school versus public school, but I do think of my friends and my family that I've made here, and I think that's the most important part — not only getting to win, but getting to share it with them. That's the most important part to me, and especially getting to share it with my senior bestie Ava Penner. I love her so much, and I was just brought to tears at the end knowing that we ended the season the best way possible, and it was our last year together."

Molini's talent and achievements have not gone unnoticed by college programs.

In October of last year, she committed to playing for Texas Tech University in the Big 12 Conference. The Red Raiders had a successful season in 2023, reaching the third round of the NCAA Tournament while finishing with a 16-2-5 record.

Molini is excited to join the program in the fall of 2025 and believes that Texas Tech and coach Tom Stone align perfectly with her playing style.

"It's a really long process, I'd say, and it's super weird because there's certain dates where college coaches can talk to you," Molini said of her recruitment. "It's just a different process, but overall, Texas Tech was just the greatest school that I did talk to. I loved it; the coach is amazing. They just embody the way I play, I feel like, and it's just gonna fit my playing style really well. I'm super excited to go and play there, and I just love the school. I'm super excited."

Molini is poised to continue her success at the collegiate level, and as she looks toward the future, she remains focused on the present, cherishing the joy and camaraderie she experiences playing high school soccer alongside her best friends.

"I love Oologah," Molini said. "I think it's the best place in the world, and I'm so excited to finish my senior year here next year."