The Rolla volleyball team (5-8, 1-2 OC) hosted Parkview for an Ozark Conference matchup on Thursday, Sept. 14. The Lady Bulldogs managed to overcome a loss in the first set to win the match 23-25, 25-10, 25-17 for their first conference win of the season.
The first set was back and forth early on, with teams trading points until the match was tied at eight. Rolla managed to build a small lead with some excellent hitting, but Parkview wouldn't go down easily. The Lady Vikings managed to tie the game at 16 with an ace by Paiton Acord. She then ripped off three more aces in a row and won a total of six straight points to take a 22-16 lead. Rebecca Janke ended the run with a kill, but the that point streak put Rolla on their heels and Parkview went on to take the first set 25-23. Rolla had a different mindset after taking the loss in the opening set according to junior captain Shelby Ply.
"I think the message in the second set was that we knew we could win because we've played really tough teams, like in the tournaments we've played in, so we knew we can finish this because we've done it before," said Ply. "So we just thought we needed to relax, get in our zone and we need to go out there and beat this team, because this team is beatable."
Rolla got in their zone immediately in the second set and won the first 12 points, including an ace from Sophie Parsons. The Lady Bulldogs played a much more well-rounded game in the second set. Everything from serving, blocking, passing and hitting was improved in the second set and different people stepped up. Ply was everywhere for Rolla with her hitting and blocking. Megan Brown started serving against Parkview and had two aces in the set to go along with good hitting and blocking. Janke was also a strong blocker and hitter in the great set. The Lady Bulldogs cruised to an easy 25-10 win in the set and Ply put an exclamation point on the win with a massive kill.
The beginning of the third set mirrored the end of the second with Ply mashing a kill to get things started. While Parkview managed to punch back several times, Ply was a machine, getting most of Rolla's first six points with blocks and kills. Rolla built their lead out out to 12-5, but Parkview wouldn't go away. Parkview stayed within a handful of points for the rest of the match, but Rolla closed the door with kills by Janke and Ami Ikuenobe to finish off a 25-17 win to take the set. Ply said this was a big win for the Lady Bulldogs because they proved they could win games against the tough Springfield schools.
"It's really exciting for us because that was one of our Springfield teams and Springfield teams are usually the ones we kind of struggle with," said Ply. "We know that Parkview has play (those other teams) and we know that Parkview and those teams have all had really close games, so we know beating Parkview like that, we can go down to Springfield and show them that we're there to win and that we can play."
Ply and Janke were a force at the net for Rolla. Janke led the team in kills with nine, but Ply was right behind her with eight. Ply also had a stellar four and a half blocks. Loran Prichett added two blocks of her own, while Brown, Janke and Skylar Garcille each added a block and a half. Ikuenobe also added a block. Outside of Ply and Janke, Rolla still had some strong hitting. Pritchett had four kills, Ikuenobe had three and Brown had a pair. Pritchett also led the team with 17 assists with Parsons right behind her with 10. Rolla also had five aces as a team with two coming from each Ply and Brown and one coming from Parsons. Seeing everyone chip in to the win was important for head coach Stephanie Pritchett. She has seen her team improve all season and now they have more evidence that they're heading in the right direction.
"We've gone through a tough stretch here at the beginning of the year and for a team that's younger and a little inexperienced, I have to cast a vision for them to understand that what's happened in the last 12 games doesn't matter, that we have gotten better. That there is improvement, that I've seen it and they've seen it and they know it," said coach Pritchett. "Our end goal is the end of the year when we get to Districts. So we have to play and get better every single game. We know what we're capable of, we just have to execute that every play."
This was also just the second time that Rolla has played in a third set this season, so it's still a new experience for them. Coach Pritchett just wanted to see her team go out there and play with confidence and they did.
"We just kept playing. We made some mistakes and it wasn't as much of a blowout as the second game. We just played," said Pritchett. "And again, the difference in the last 12 games and now is a little bit of a maturity level to not just stop and to pay attention. Pay attention to what the setter is doing, pay attention to where they're hitting, pay attention to what their tenancies are so we can pick that up. We're also playing a lot better defense right now than we were at the beginning of the season."
Coach Pritchett hopes this win gives her team the confidence boost they need.
"We needed it. I feel like the girls have understood we're in games, we're right there. I looked at our record earlier today and we're losing 25-20, 25-23, 25-0, 25-23, 24-26, 25-27 and after a while it just gets like no matter what we do, we're not winning and we needed a win," said coach Pritchett. "Whether it was close, whether it was a blow out, we needed a win just to kind of say 'okay, we can win. This is what we can do.' And we played well doing it."
After some well deserved time off this weekend, Rolla will host Licking on Monday, Sept. 18.