The St. James volleyball team (6-18-2) wrapped up their regular season with another busy week. After playing New Haven for Senior Night on Thursday, Oct. 5, the Lady Tigers played in the Linn Tournament Saturday, Oct. 7. The regular season came to an end on Tuesday, Oct. 10 when St. James made a trip to St. Clair. The Lady Tigers went 1-3-2 over the span of six games.
St. James started play in a busy week when they hosted New Haven for Senior Night. Unfortunately, that was a rough night for the Lady Tigers, as New Haven dominated both sets on their way to a 25-9, 25-6 win.
The Lady Tigers then turned their attention to the Linn Tournament on Saturday. St. James was without two key players in senior Myla Picker and junior Taryn Sanders. That left St. James with just one sub throughout the day. The first matchup for St. James was Bourbon. The Lady Tigers were still a big groggy and fell in the first set 25-21. St. James woke up a bit for the second set, taking the set 25-18 to split the match.
St. James moved on to play Cuba for their second pool play game. The Lady Tigers showed bursts, but Cuba controlled the match from start to finish for a 25-18, 25-16.
The Lady Tigers went on to play the host school for their final pool play game. Linn managed to outlast St. James in the first set 25-20, but the Lady Tigers came to play in the second set. Everyone from the regulars to the small bench stepped up for a big 25-14 win.
"After we lost the first set, the girls came out like a different team. They did everything they needed to do. Our passing and setting was on, and our hitting was very good too," said head coach Julie Guese. "Raina Forstrom had a very strong passing and hitting game. The Rodgers sisters worked hard and made many great plays. Hannah Marcee and Makiah Marshall both had strong games too. Katlyn Branstetter and Courtney Cale both stepped up and they took turns filling in for our two missing players, and they did a great job as well. This was by far the best set of the day for us."
St. James wrapped up the day with a rematch against Bourbon in the third place game. St. James controlled the set from jump street to win the match in straight sets 25-19, 25-19.
"Overall, we had a slow start to our day, but the girls kicked it into gear just a little too late to get into the championship game," said Guese. "I was proud of them for finishing the day strong."
After taking third in the Linn Tournament, St. James faced off against St. Clair for their regular season finale. St. James was still without Picker on Tuesday, but Sanders was able to return to the lineup. The Lady Tigers struggled out of the gate and allowed St. Clair to win the first four points. St. James struggled with communication throughout the set, which led to a lot of easy points for St. Clair. The Lady Bulldogs had an easy time in the first set, cruising to a 25-9 win.
"In our first set, we did not talk very well. We have a lot of miscommunication on our back row attacks," said coach Guese. "We talked about having a purpose for the ball. In the first set, they were just kind of passing the ball straight up or our setters were even setting up between people constantly in setting the back row and the front row didn't know it was their ball, so it was just a lot of miscommunication."
The communication tightened up a bit in the second set and St. James managed to maintain a small lead early. For the first few points St. James led by one or two points, but they were never really able to string things together long enough to build a more substantial lead. After St. James had a 6-4 lead, the Lady Bulldogs started their comeback. St. Clair went on a tear to build a 15-8 lead in the blink of an eye. They went on to win the set 25-13. While the final score of the set did go the way St. James wanted, coach Guese was glad to see her team playing with a strong St. Clair team for a while.
"They were right there with them for half the game and we just hit a wall. It went down pretty fast after that," said the St. James head coach. "They'll get down on themselves pretty easy, but they've really done a good job this year. The three freshmen who hardly ever come out of the ball game, they've done a fantastic job playing against all of these seniors with all this experience and I've been really proud of them. It's good for us to have half a game where they're right with one of the top teams, I mean, they're second in the District."
That won't be the last time St. James and St. Clair face off this season. The Lady Tigers will open up Districts on Monday, Oct. 16 against St. Clair, so coach Guese hopes her team took some lessons from their game on Tuesday.
"Actually it is good (to get this game in first)," said coach Guese. "That's what we just said, I told them we know what to expect on Monday, we know who can hit the ball, because there's four players over there that hit the ball pretty well. We'll be in a different atmosphere as well, so it won't be their home crowd, but it's good for them to know what's coming up."
Coach Guese saw her team have a purpose with the ball when they were playing well with St. Clair at the beginning of the second set. She wants to see that continue when these two teams face off in the first round of Districts.
"Basically just having a purpose with the ball," said Guese. "That first ball has to be passed to our setter, who's almost to the right side of the court and our setter has to be able to put it in a spot where there's no miscommunication and then we need to be able to be communication."