COLUMBIA — Wearing T-shirts that had been decorated by underclassmen on the Stephens College volleyball team, seniors Logan Weber, Laura Ward and Kelsie Byrd took the court for warmups before Monday's match against Missouri Valley College.
At the end of the pregame routine, the seniors and their parents were introduced to the crowd, and flowers, balloons, and gifts from the team were presented to them.
Stars coach Rose Obunaga expressed her gratitude for having such a great trio of seniors on the team for her first season at Stephens.
"They have been my core," Obunaga said. "We're going to have a really big hole when they leave."
Although Stephens lost to the Vikings in three sets, 25-17, 25-13, 25-20, the seniors' impact could be seen clearly throughout the match.
Weber, who was a walk-on last season, commanded the back court during the match, constantly making sure her teammates knew where to expect the ball and whether or not she needed help.
Byrd, a middle hitter and captain, had several clutch kills during the match, and her service rotation in the third and final set allowed the Stars a chance at a comeback.
Ward's upbeat attitude and signature sequin headband make up the soul of the Stars team. After the match, she held back tears.
All three agreed that despite the hardships they've endured this season, the volleyball team helped to make their time at Stephens something special and has taught them valuable life lessons that they'll take with them after graduation.
"Volleyball has had an impact on my life since sixth grade," Byrd said. "Between classes, practices and games I've learned so much about time management."
Ward and Weber agreed and added that without volleyball, they wouldn't have met the other amazing women on the team.
"It was a tough season and we're a young team, but it's been a ton of fun," Weber said.
Obunaga is hoping that recruiting will help fill the void the seniors make when they leave.
"I've seen huge improvements in all of the players this season," Obunaga said. "We won some games over good teams. We really tried."
The Stars (9-19) are set to play next in a 7 p.m. Tuesday game against Park University at Parkville.