COLUMBIA - Hickman senior outside hitter Chloe Perkins picked a good night to return to the lineup, but it had nothing to do with Senior Night festivities or simply playing in Hearnes Center.
With the third game's scored tied at 1-1 between the Kewpies and rival Rock Bridge, Perkins, having missed several games because of injury, helped save Hickman's point by diving and keeping the ball up with her hand flat on the floor. Fans yelled in surprise, and once Hickman earned the point moments later, its energized team celebrated the loudest it had all night.
"That's just an awesome play," Kewpies coach Greg Gunn said. "When you win a rally like that, that's huge for momentum. Especially when you have an awesome defensive play like that that saves it for you. And then you're able to convert and win the point, win the rally and keep the momentum. That was huge."
Hickman won 25-20, 25-15, 25-21, but Rock Bridge coach Beth Newton thinks the closer scores are indicative of her team's positive direction.
"We've improved a lot," Newton said about her team, which over the past eight games has gone 5-2-1.
Newton was particularly pleased with freshman Nici Thaler and seniors Courtney Darkow and Alex Perry.
"She's (Perry) a great server," Newton said. "When she goes back, we know that she can get on a run, and we needed it at that point."
Perry served for much of Rock Bridge's rally to a three-point lead midway through the final game.
Hickman senior middle hitter Leslie Gregory noticed, too.
"They were more prepared for us this time," she said.
Coincidentally, these teams will play each other again at yet another venue, Tuesday night in Troy. Hickman is the No. 3 seed in the Class 4, District 9 tournament, and Rock Bridge is No. 6.
"It'll be pretty interesting just to see them again," Gregory said.
Newton feels the same way.
"We can always buck up and come at 'em again," she said.