COLUMBIA — For Laurie Painter, Thursday's volleyball match at Rock Bridge against Boonville was bittersweet.
Painter is a Columbia resident and a former Rock Bridge athlete, but she now teaches sixth grade in Boonville and says she enjoys following the Pirates.
“These used to be my students," Painter said.
Painter, who played basketball for four years at Rock Bridge, sat among her old high school friends and teammates while wearing a Boonville T-shirt in support of her former students.
“I feel like I’m in the lion’s den,” Painter said. “I am wearing this (Boonville) shirt and I’m sitting on the Bruins' side, but I’m here with my kids, so I want to expose them to my alma mater.”
Rock Bridge beat Boonville 25-19, 25-23 in a match that featured the first appearance of the Bruins' Kayla Howard.
Between the games, Painter ventured over to the opposing Boonville side of the crowd, and received some playful criticism.
“I ran into a couple of my former students who said to me ‘Why are you sitting over there?' and I say, ‘Well, you need to understand, I’m a Bruin through and through,'" Painter said. "Then one student shouts to me, ‘Hey, who gives you a paycheck?’
“They always give me a hard time. But this is really hard for me. I’m torn between my students and my alma mater.”
Howard entered the match at the end of the first game, and she received a loud welcome from her teammates and family, sitting proudly in the bleachers.
“My family was here from out of town,” Howard said. “I was so happy that they got a chance to see me play.
“I was so anxious to go out and play, especially so close to the end of the game, there is a lot of pressure. But I got out there and had my first hit, which was returned, but it gave me a lot of confidence. I just wanted to swing again.”
On her next opportunity, Howard hit past the Boonville blockers deep into the back of the court for a kill.
Rock Bridge plays next at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in a tournament at William Chrisman. They are set to play Monday at rival Hickman.