The Rolla volleyball team hosted their home tournament on Saturday, Sept. 23. After losing just one set in pool play, the Lady Bulldogs were the top seed going into bracket play, but a loss to Osage in three sets sent them to the third place game where they beat Waynesville in straight sets.
Rolla was absolutely dominant in pool play. The Lady Bulldogs started the day with their toughest matchup of pool play against Summerville. After winning the first set 25-22, Rolla lost their only set of pool play, but they gave Summerville everything they could handle. The Lady Bulldogs had the set tied at 24 before Summersville took three of the last four points to win the set 27-25. After that, it was smooth sailing until bracket play. First the Lady Bulldogs cruised past Mexico, winning both sets by a score of 25-14. Rolla then faced Sullivan and thrashed them 25-9 in the first set, before taking the much closer second set 25-20.
The Lady Bulldogs opened up bracket play against Houston. Rolla easily controlled the first set 25-16, but the Lady Tigers put up more of a fight in the second set. Rolla had some occasional issues backing up their blockers, which led to a tight beginning of the set. Rolla started to break away as the match went on, building a 24-13 lead. Houston won six straight points, but Rolla was able to finish off the match with a final score of 25-19 to advance.
Rolla went on to face Osage in the tournament's semi-final. The beginning of the match was extremely back and forth thanks to some stellar blocking from the Lady Indians. Rolla gave them a little help with a handful of mental errors as well, but they still fought to stay in the game. Osage eventually built the first solid lead of the match when they led 20-14, but Rolla won five straight points to get back in the set. The two teams traded points from there on out, with Rolla pushing things to 24-23 in Osage's favor, but the Lady Indians got the final point to take the opening set.
Rolla came up firing in the second set and jumped out to a quick 10-5 lead. They managed to maintain that lead, eventually extending it to 18-10. Osage made a late push on the back of some Rolla hitting errors, but the Lady Bulldogs finished the set strong to even the match with a 25-22 win on a Courtney Colench kill.
Osage opened the third set by taking the first three points on their way to leading the entire set. Rolla made another series of mental errors, like circling around the ball as it dropped to the floor. Osage led by as many as nine in the set and they won by that margin 25-16, putting Rolla in the third place game.
While it's easy to say a team is tired after a long day of volleyball, head coach Stephanie Pritchett doesn't see that as the reason Rolla struggled at times against Osage.
"I know that it's a long day, but it's a long day for the other team too, so that's not really an excuse...they know they do it, but they have just a mode they go into when they're unsure that they can beat a team," said coach Pritchett. "They play back instead of being aggressive. When they're aggressive and look like they're going to win, they win because we go out and really go after a team. We've never seen Osage before and I think in their heads, and Osage played really well against us, but we made some really unforced errors."
While coach Pritchett gives some credit to the Osage blocking, she also saw her team playing right into their hands with low hit after low hit.
"We were hitting right over the top of the net. I knew they were a good blocking team when we came in, but we were hitting right over the top of the net into them," said the Rolla head coach. "We were five feet off the net and hitting right into their hands, so that's something we have to work on, hitting around the block, making wiser choices when you hit."
After losing in the semi-final, Rolla had a fire in their bellies and they showed it in the first set against Waynesville. Rolla won the first six points in the set and never looked back as they steamrolled the Lady Tigers 25-13.
Rolla lost that edge a bit in the second set and Waynesville was able to stay in the match. The Lady Bulldogs seemed to have some issues with communication and that led to a few collisions when trying to dig some Waynesville kills. Rolla pushed through, however, and managed to take the set by the narrow margin of 26-24.
Coach Pritchett hopes that this tournament is a learning lesson in the mental side of the game for her Lady Bulldogs, because mental lapses were their biggest issue throughout the day.
"That's what I told them. I can hope that they learn from it," said Pritchett. "Everything is a learning curve and we're getting there. We're not where we were when we started the season, we're farther than where we started the season, so that's good. It's just little things now."
While Rolla didn't get the finish that they hoped for, they still had a strong day. They only lost one match all day long and only dropped three sets. While they made some mistakes against Osage, that doesn't take away from a great day all around.
"We lost one game today, one match. We should've beat Summersville outright, but we split with them, but all we did was lose one match to put us in the third place game," said coach Pritchett. We just lost that match at the wrong time. Wins and losses-wise, we did what we needed to do. We played, we lost one match. We know where we could've been. We did a lot of things well."
After a busy weekend, there's not a ton of rest in Rolla's future. They'll face off against Owensville on Monday, Sept. 25 for a quick turnaround before returning to the Ozark Conference with a matchup against Lebanon on Thursday. They'll then play in the Licking Tournament this coming weekend.