COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge volleyball team grouped together on the court and jumped up and down. The players had enormous smiles on their faces.
"South side, what it do? Hey!" the girls yelled.
Sighs of joy and relief went through the gym air at Hickman High School. Of the people wearing green, whether player, fan or parent, there wasn't a frown in sight.
The Bruins are going to the Sweet 16.
Rock Bridge won the Class 4, District 9 championship over Helias 25-21, 26-24. It is the team's first district championship since 2010.
"It's the best feeling ever," said Rock Bridge senior defensive specialist Jessica Lambert.
The championship match against Helias was intense. The score was tied at 22 in the second set when the crowd started heating up.
"Let's go Rock Bridge!" shouted a mix of parents and students on the Bruins' side of the stands.
Over on Helias' side, a man stood up with a blue pompom and cheered on the Crusaders.
"Give me an H! Give me an E! ...," yelled the man, with the fans joining in to spell out the school's name.
A few points later, the Bruins were up 25-24 and were poised to get the game point and the victory. Both teams were on edge. No player wanted to make a mistake.
"That killed me inside," Lambert said, laughing. "Every time there would be a close ball, my heart would skip not one beat, but 15."
On the last play, senior setter Ali Kreklow put the ball up for senior middle hitter Audrey Holt. Holt spiked the ball directly towards a Helias player, bouncing off the player and out of play. Realizing they had won, the Bruin players jumped with excitement and high-fived each other.
"It feels awesome," Kreklow said. "We haven't (won districts) since my freshman year, so it was really great to get over that hump and take the championship."
Playing Helias wasn't only about winning the championship, though. It was also to avenge one of the Bruins' two losses of the season. Helias earlier defeated Rock Bridge 25-12, 25-22.
"We knew it was going to be a battle," Kreklow said. "We played them earlier in the season, and they kind of beat us pretty bad. We knew we'd have to come out here and compete or we wouldn't win.
"That's what we had to do, and we decided we were going to come out and do it and take that championship."
Rock Bridge advanced to the championship match by beating Smith-Cotton 23-25, 25-21, 25-13 earlier Wednesday in the district semifinal.
With the district win, Rock Bridge advances in the state tournament and is scheduled to face the winner of District 12 at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Bruin coach Robin Sherman joked that the team had to begin focusing on the next game immediately after the district championships.
"They're done (celebrating)," she said, laughing. "Actually, no, they have all night to do that. We'll probably have a little 'hoorah' tomorrow right at the beginning of practice.
"We'll talk about the things that we did and then start building on that for Saturday."
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.