The Rolla volleyball team (15-11-3) made the quick trip down to Licking for the Licking Classic on Saturday, Sept. 30. Rolla came out of pool play as the second seed and went on to finish the tournament in third place.
The Lady Bulldogs started pool play with a matchup against Cabool. After a strong first set, Rolla eked out a victory in the second set to win 25-18, 27-25. Their next pool play match was against Mountain Grove, which led to two more sets won 25-17, 25-14. Things got a little tougher for Rolla in their last two pool play matches. The Lady Bulldogs split with Eminence 25-22, 24-26. With two close sets, the fact that Rolla won the first set by one more point than they lost the second set, they had a slight edge in head-to-head points, ranking them above Eminence. Rolla's final pool play game was against Fair Grove. That mirrored the Eminence match and Rolla lost the first set 24-26, but won the second 25-23. Those matches gave the Lady Bulldogs a second place ranking going into bracket play.
Rolla went into bracket play and instantly faced Mountain View Liberty for a phenomenal semi-final match. The two teams met in tournament play earlier this year when the Lady Bulldogs lost 2-1 in the Show Me Showdown and their matchup in the Licking Classic was a great back and forth affair. No one was able to take control in any of the sets. Mountain View Liberty took the first set 25-20, but Rolla won the second set by the same score to set up a third set. Rolla gave Mountain View Liberty everything they could handle, but the Lady Bulldogs lost the set 22-25 to go to the third place game. Rebecca Janke had a phenomenal showing in the semi-final, smacking 16 kills on 26 attempts.
Rolla had an easy time in the third place game, beating Willow Springs 25-16, 25-19. Fair Grove won the tournament by beating Mountain View Liberty in the Championship in straight sets.
Shelby Ply was dominant all day long for the Lady Bulldogs to earn a spot on the All-Tournament team. She led Rolla with 44 kills on the day, while adding 15 service aces, four solo blocks and seven assist blocks. Janke was right behind her with 32 kills on the day with just one hitting error in 58 attempts. Janke was also in on nine blocks. Megan Brown was third on the team in kills with 26, while adding three block assists and four aces. Loran Pritchett was the top setter on the day with 54 assists, while adding 28 digs, 13 kills, 6 blocks and five aces. Sophie Parsons was right behind her setting with 51 assists, while adding 20 digs. Ami Ikuenobe led the team in digs with 31, while adding three block assistss. Madalyn Franks chipped in with 27 assists on the day.
"I am really proud of our girls for hanging in all day," said head coach Stephanie Pritchett. "It's hard to play a tournament on Homecoming and we started with the first game of the day at 9 a.m. and ended at 7:30 p.m.. They are a great group of girls and we hit a couple of bumps through the day, but they were focused on the task at hand."
The biggest key for coach Pritchett is that she continues to see her team improve as the season winds down. She was also glad to hear from other coaches that her team has taken the strides she thinks they have.
"I continually get comments from other coaches about our team. Three coaches in the past week have mentioned how much better we are than at the beginning of the season. That confirms what I feel is happening," said the Rolla head coach. "We are playing every point. We believe we can play with anyone and we are starting to close out games much better than the beginning of the season. Growth is so important through the season and we have to keep working on reading the offenses and defenses we are up against to reach where we want to be in two weeks at Districts."
Rolla will travel to Hillcrest on Tuesday, Oct. 3 for an Ozark Conference matchup. Hillcrest is also in Rolla's District and that will be the Lady Bulldog's last matchup against a District team before the tournament is seeded on Wednesday, Oct. 4.