COLUMBIA — Hannibal ended Rock Bridge’s season again.
The Pirates defeated the Bruins 25-21, 13-25, 25-18 in the semifinals of the Class 4, District 9 girls volleyball tournament Tuesday at Rock Bridge High School. Last year, Hannibal had upset then-top-seeded Rock Bridge in the district final.
“Our passing was not very good tonight,” Rock Bridge coach Robin Sherman said. “If we don’t pass well, then our offense can’t get in a rhythm. I don’t care how good your hitters are, if you can’t pass, you aren’t going to win.”
The Rock Bridge team was unsatisfied with how last year's season ended and was hoping to exact their revenge.
Rock Bridge was down 18-13 in the third set before attempting a comeback. After every point, every Bruins player screamed in excitement. Junior setter Ali Kreklow’s face was bright red for the majority of the third game.
“We really fought hard tonight,” Bruins senior Katelyn Race said. “We didn’t get angry at each other, and we stayed together as a tight-knit unit, which is a huge accomplishment given the pressure we were under.”
After the final whistle blew, numerous Rock Bridge players were in tears with sophomore Sophie Cunningham being particular emotional.
Cunningham led the Bruins with nine kills and junior Kayla Cheadle added eight kills and four blocks. Cunningham returned from injury Monday in the district opener against rival Hickman.
“As the game went on, Hannibal raised their level of play, and we started to get concerned,” Sherman said. “Volleyball is so fast-paced that if you doubt yourself for a fraction of a second it can throw you off.”
Race and fellow senior Yonne Nasimiyu said they both plan on playing volleyball in college. Nasimiyu said she will likely play for her mother, Rose Obunaga, the coach at Stephens College. Race has yet to decide where she wants to attend college, but is quick to point out that these high-pressure games will give her helpful experience.
“Being able to play under pressure in high stakes games is huge because in college you are playing on scholarship,” Race said. “In college the coaches don’t feel the pressure to play everyone, so having already played under pressure in high school really helps.”
She said the district loss did not ruin her final season at Rock Bridge.
“For me personally I couldn’t have asked for a better senior season,” Race said. “Our team was able to overcome a lot of injuries, and I had a lot of fun. No regrets."
Several key Bruins players will be back next season, including Cunningham, Kreklow and Audrey Holt, who each earned all-district honors last season.
“It helps a lot that we are a young team,” Sherman said. “We will have a lot of talented players next year so we will see."
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