COLUMBIA – For Rock Bridge volleyball player Nici Thaler, satisfaction comes from hitting the floor for a dig, over and over again.
Thaler, a libero, was a key player in Thursday's match against visiting Helias Catholic. Even though the Crusaders had a strong front line, they had to work to get the ball past Thaler, who had more than 20 digs in the contest.
Rock Bridge lost to Helias 25-15, 31-29, 25-14, but Thaler still had some fire leftover from the match that she so badly wanted to win.
"I said to myself before the game 'we are not losing this game, we are not losing this game,'" Thaler said with a wide smile, her cheeks rosy, and sweat dripping down her forehead.
"I know a lot of the girls on the Helias team," she said. "I played club with about five of the girls on that team."
One of the players that posed a threat for the Bruins was Helias junior middle hitter Krista Haslag, who Thaler played with at the Central Missouri Volleyball Club in Jefferson City.
"She (Thaler) is such an amazing player," Haslag said. "My goal for the night was to keep the ball away from her. She's incredible. I watch her play, and I think 'how the heck did she get that?'"
In the second game, the Bruins played with much more aggression, and both sides put up numerous kill attempts. For Thaler, this was a dream come true.
"It feels so great," Thaler said. "A strong hitting team is exciting for me. It means that I am going to be running and hitting the floor a lot, which I don't mind."
This is Thaler's third year playing varsity for Rock Bridge she has been playing since she was in third grade. She said she hopes her volleyball career does not end with the Bruins. She has been approached by several colleges who are looking for talented liberos, and of those Georgetown is at the top of her list.
While Thaler said she is excited for what lies ahead, right now she has one thing on her mind.
"I just want to get us ready for districts," she said. "We have great potential this year, and that is my goal for the season."
Rock Bridge plays next at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Teresa's Academy. Their next home match is set for 5 p.m. Oct. 7 against Hannibal.