COLUMBIA — Eight points down in the second set, midway through the season with a young team and young coaches is a tough place to be.
“I looked at that (score) and thought, we’re going to have to start chipping away now,” Rock Bridge volleyball coach Tatum Anderson said. “We can’t wait until they get in the 20s.”
That’s exactly what they did. After winning a close first game, the Bruins came from behind in the second game to defeat the visiting St. Paul Lutheran Saints 25-23, 25-22 on Thursday.
"They're very young, but they're very competitive, and they do a good job of staying composed under pressure," Anderson said. "I'm very proud of them."
The victory put the Bruins at 13-4 for the season.
“I think it (the game) displayed a lot of focus,” Anderson said. “We had to come from behind in both games and execute our game plan, and we did a good job of coming back. We don’t want to get ourselves in those situations, but the girls did a good job of staying aggressive with the balls.”
In such close games, especially when playing from behind, defense is extremely important. Anderson stressed the importance of blocking as something her team had been focusing on in practice and said she was happy with the way the girls carried it over to the game.
“We don’t practice things just because we have to practice things,” Anderson said. “We practice things to execute in games.”
Senior libero Nici Thaler led the team in digs with seven. As one of the three senior captains on the team, Thaler is used to being a leader, not only of the defense, but of the team overall.
“We have a lot of younger players this season,” Thaler said. She added it is important for her “to set an example for them and let them know what their job is in the coming years, so that they can start being leaders as well.”
She admitted that the beginning of the season was scary because of the lack of experience and she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“We had a really rough start,” Thaler said. “We lost our first two games. I think we’ve really found how to play with each other as a team, and that’s helped so much.”
Anderson also said “building trust with each other and getting more reps” has been key in the Bruins' success.
As with any team, Rock Bridge hopes to improve even more in the second half of the season. Both Anderson and Thaler said they know that the team has things to work on if they want to defend their title as district champions.
“I hope we keep winning and that we keep improving on what we need to improve on,” Thaler said.
Rock Bridge plays this weekend at the Troy Invitational tournament, and Anderson said she thinks her team will be ready.
"The focus is there,” Anderson said. “They know what it takes to win, and they’re willing to put in the hard work.”