COLUMBIA — The Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School volleyball team will play its first full varsity season this year.
Last year, when the school opened, it played only three varsity matches. The first was the first athletic competition for the school, a 3-2 defeat of sister school, Calvary Lutheran.
“When we started we only had two girls with competitive experience and four girls who could serve over the net,” head coach Bryndyn Crutcher said. “A lot of the players were very athletic, but they lacked experience.”
Missouri is one of the few states that lets coaches decide whether they want their teams to play a best-of-three format or best-of-five. Crutcher always tried to play best of five in order to get the Trailblazers as much game experience as possible.
“Throughout the year I felt we made a lot of progress,” Crutcher said. “Originally some of the girls wanted to serve underhand, but I told them if they wanted to compete on the varsity level, they would have to serve overhand.”
The players also gained experience in junior varsity tournaments such as the Hickman High School JV tournament.
“We didn’t win a lot of those matches in the JV tournaments, but I felt we made a lot of progress in regards to our feel for the game” Crutcher said. “Instead of hitting the ball over the first time and hoping the other team would make a mistake, we focused on passing, setting and spiking. We felt that we would rather lose playing volleyball instead of winning playing ping-pong.”
This year the team is focusing on more advanced aspects of the game, working on things such as correct positioning and timing their jumps instead of learning how to serve.
“My expectation is for us to go out and compete really well,” Crutcher said. “There are some games that we should win, but I don’t expect to win them all. We scheduled tough opponents to make us a better volleyball team when the playoffs come around."
Tolton opened the season against New Haven, which won 20 games last year and qualified for the state tournament. The Trailblazers lost 25-13, 25-11, but rebounded in their home opener on Monday when they defeated Calvary Lutheran 25-17, 25-12.
Tolton's Mary Cleek, who also plays for Club COMO, led the team against Calvary Lutheran with six kills.
“It was great to come out in front of our home crowd and get a victory,” Cleek said. “Every day these girls are working in practice, and it is great to see them improving.”
On Tuesday, the Trailblazers lost to Sacred Heart High School 12-25, 13-25. Tolton will play next on Thursday at Montgomery County.
“Yes we are a young team, but we were even younger last year,” middle hitter River Remis said. “Our goal is to get to districts and hopefully advance.”