COLUMBIA - Jill Nagel, coach of the Rock Bridge High School girls basketball team, stands at center court with her players surrounding her.
“The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others,” she reads.
Nagel’s team is full of confidence. It is fresh off a victory over rival Hickman, and winners of 10 of its last 11 games.
The win at Hickman did not come easy, with Rock Bridge playing in a hostile environment.
“We got off to a rough to start with nerves and everything, but I think ultimately it was our hard work paying off when it really counted at the end,” said junior Lindsey Cunningham, co-captain of the team.
Nagel appreciated the atmosphere that the rivalry game created.
“You always want as a player, you always want your classmates there, “ she said. “It would be the same for Hickman if they played here and that’s what makes it fun for the girls. It’s going to be the biggest crowd that they play in front of.”
The victory improved the Bruin’s record to 14-4. The wins have been a product of tough practices and a deep bench.
“That’s what helped us last night was depth,” said Nagel. “We’ve got ten players that we play quite a bit, and we got more than that that could play, so we have the ability to rotate in a number of players and not drop off very much.”
Nagel is in her sixth year as head coach of the Bruins. In that time she has developed a sense of unity among her players. She reads her team inspirational quotes before practice. This year, with an influx of freshman and sophomore players, Nagel incorporated another team-building exercise, “the hot seat.” At the end of practice, Nagel picks a player to stand in the middle of her team’s circle. Then each of her teammates tells her something they appreciate about her.
“We’ve had a bunch of freshman and sophomores come up this year and we’re used to having juniors and seniors,” said senior Megan Marshall. “We’re trying to get to know everyone so we try to bring in a lot of team unity and chemistry and that’s one way we help it out.”
That unity has led to a team brimming with confidence. Upcoming for the Bruins is a game Saturday against Lafayette, followed by the Webster’s Winter Challenge Tuesday, a tournament the Bruins nearly won last year, losing in overtime on a buzzer beater.
“It’s going to be a tough tournament, but it will be fun,” said senior co-captain Allison Marshall. “We’ll be ready. We’re getting ready.”