The Rolla volleyball team (5-8) hosted Licking for a non-conference matchup on Monday, Sept. 18. The Lady Bulldogs were able to string together consecutive wins for their first time this season by winning the match in straight sets 25-13, 25-17. The JV lost their match in straight sets 22-25, 12-25.
The first set started pretty evenly, as neither team was able to put together more than a couple of points in a row. Megan Brown took over the hitting lead for Rolla early to keep the Lady Bulldogs even with Licking. Rolla put the first real points streak together when they built an 11-8 lead to take four straight points. The final point of that streak came on an ace from Sophie Parsons. Licking ended the streak, but that was the turning point of the match.
Rebecca Janke subbed in midway through the first set and started to add to the hitting from Brown. As Janke came in, the blocking continued to improve. That blocking took a little pressure off the defense and Rolla started to build a steady lead. The Lady Bulldogs built their lead out to 16-10 on an ace by Shelby Ply, as Rolla started to cruise. Rolla got a few more aces from Loran Pritchett and Brown on the way to an easy 25-13 win.
Rolla took control of the set thanks to some more stellar serving from Pritchett. The sophomore setter strung together several aces to help the Lady Bulldogs built an early 11-4 lead. Licking made a lot of simple mistakes as the set continued and Rolla was able to add to their lead, pushing it to 14-7.
While Rolla had a steady lead, they started to slip in the middle of the set. Rolla had some issues on their serve receive and their passing and suddenly Licking had closed the gap to 14-12. Ply ended the Licking run by smashing down a kill, which sparked the Lady Bulldogs to stretch their lead back out to 18-13. After trading points, Rolla got a nice block to take a 20-16 lead before pushing things into overdrive. Rolla got yet another kill from Brown, an ace from Ply and a kill from Pritchett led Rolla to a 25-17 win in the set to take the match in straight sets.
Brown led the team in hitting with nine kills in the victory. The hitting was pretty evenly spread out after that with Janke adding four kills, while Ply, Pritchett and Courtney Colench each chipping in with a pair of kills. Pritchett also led the team in both aces and assists. She had give aces and seven assists. Her setting partner, Parsons, matched her in assists with seven.
"We're putting it together a little bit at a time and when we do that, I'm happy," said head coach Stephanie Pritchett after the game. "It may not have been a perfect game, we're never going to play a perfect game, but we keep moving forward and that's what I want. I want us to move forward, I want us to take care of the teams we should.
"We have a different person step up for us every game," continued the Rolla head coach. "Megan was our big hitter tonight with nine kills, Shelby did a great job, Rebecca did a great job, but any given game (someone new can step up). And when our passing is better, we do get Rebecca and Shelby in there a little bit more. We struggled a little bit with our passing tonight and that's what made us set outside and Megan did a good job."
Rolla's good stretches of play throughout the night came from great play at the net. While they formally didn't have a ton of blocks for points, Rolla was hounding Licking at the net all night long. They also covered their blocks really well and recovered from any Licking blocks to keep rallies alive.
"We started covering our block pretty well," said coach Pritchett. "If we got blocked, we had people there to dig the ball back up. That was nice to see from us tonight."
Rolla's biggest issues came from some service return problems in the second set. But the Lady Bulldogs deserve some credit, they fought their way back after letting Licking back into the game and ended up putting the Lady Wildcats away easily.
"It is a credit to them. They are doing this because they want to and I'm proud of them," said Pritchett of the fight her team showed when they had rough moments. "I'm proud of the way that they played tonight as a team. I want them to have fun and I think I get the most aggravated when I feel like they're not having fun, because they're on their heels and they're not being aggressive. When they're aggressive, we have fun and they do great."
The win gave Rolla their first win streak of the season and a nice burst of confidence. That added confidence comes at the right time. Rolla will host West Plains on Thursday, Sept. 21 for an Ozark Conference matchup before a busy day of volleyball with the Rolla Classic on Saturday, Sept. 23.
"It would've been huge if we didn't play well tonight. We play West Plains Thursday night for a conference game. They beat us barely both times we played them in their tournament," said coach Pritchett. "We gotta see what happens, it'll be a good game."