Volleyball spikes Smith-Cotton in district finals, eventually falls in sectionals

Sophomore+setter+Ally+Offerdahl+sets+the+ball+for+senior+outside+hitter+Deidre++Mattson+to+spike+in+a+game+against+Hickman+on+Oct.+16.+The+Bruins+beat+the+Kewpies+25-17%2C+25-15+in+straight+sets+to+win+their+last+regular+season+game+before+moving+into+the+postseason.+Photo+by+Devesh+Kumar.+

Sophomore setter Ally Offerdahl sets the ball for senior outside hitter Deidre Mattson to spike in a game against Hickman on Oct. 16. The Bruins beat the Kewpies 25-17, 25-15 in straight sets to win their last regular season game before moving into the postseason. Photo by Devesh Kumar.

John Flanegin

With a record of 25-7-2 and a district championship to their names, it was clear that this year was anything but a rebuilding season for the Rock Bridge volleyball team after the loss of 10 seniors.
“We knew that there were going to be lots of changes in the roster and that some players would have to take up new positions,” junior defensive specialist Mariah Fitzpatrick said. “But I was not concerned about our success. Our team is made up of highly competitive and dedicated players, so I knew that we would be able to overcome the loss of so many seniors.”
The team did just as Fitzpatrick thought and surprised many, posting a 7-2-2 record after the Rockwood Summit tournament in mid-September. Under the close watch of second-year coach Robin Sherman at the helm, the lady Bruins developed into a team of sisters, using teamwork as their blueprint for the season.
“Our cohesion as a team, I think, was emphasized a lot, not vocally, but in the drills we would do.” senior outside hitter Bailey Lawson said. “We all knew we would have to all work together as a unit if we were to succeed.”
With the loss of much of the team’s leaders, Lawson and seniors Carly Offerdahl, Deidre Mattson, and Lydia Murphy took to their positions determined to mentor as well as motivate no matter the obstacles.
“They were able to inspire us as a team to work together,” Fitzpatrick said. “And fight through the tough parts of the season.”
With injuries becoming a recurring theme, the team had to dig deeper than ever before.
“We had a large number of injuries that required the team to change the lineup many times,” Offerdahl said. “This made us have to increase our communication during the games. It really helped us become a better overall team and ultimately helped us play better together in the postseason.”
Entering districts the team boasted a 22-6-2 record and hoped to repeat as champions after last year’s defeat of Helias Catholic in the finals.
After walloping Battle in straight sets, 25-4, 25-16, the Lady Bruins quickly dismissed rival Jefferson City, 25-9 ,25-20, and advanced to the district finals later that night against Smith-Cotton, who had swept the RBHS team Sept. 8, 20-25, 31-33, on the same court.
Mattson, an outside and middle hitter, believed playing the Tigers would only add more kindling to the flames.
“We were all prepared for a close match,” Mattson said. “But we had been practicing defense against their best hitter weeks in advance so that definitely helped with our win.”
Conceding a loss in the first set, the team rallied behind Offerdahl’s eleven kills and Mattson’s .538 hitting efficiency to win the match 17-25, 25-23, 25-22 and were once again crowned champs of Class Four District Nine.
Only three days after celebrating their win, the Bruins saw their season come to a close when they lost to Ozark 17-25, 11-25 in the sectional tournament.
“I was definitely sad going into sectionals,” Lawson said. “I knew that win or lose, it was my last day playing on the Rock Bridge court. But I am happy with the impression I made on the underclassmen and I’m excited to see them play these next few years.”
For Fitzpatrick, there has been a passing of the torch, and with it comes expectations as the team leader next season.
“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to lead the team, but also nerve racking, especially after the great leadership that Bailey and Carly had,” Fitzpatrick said. “Those are definitely big shoes to fill.”