The gymnasium was filled with echoes of yells, claps and stomps for a thrilling championship.
After three rounds of matches at Rock Bridge High, Marshall defeated Hannibal 25-18, 25-22 to win the North Central Missouri Conference Volleyball Tournament on Saturday. Rock Bridge placed fourth, losing to Helias in the consolation match.
Marshall’s victory came after fending off a spirited Hannibal comeback.
After losing the first game, the Pirates returned to the court rejuvenated. They stayed close to Marshall in a back-and-forth contest. Marshall reached game point at 24-21, but Hannibal senior Sarah Moore held off the Owls with a vicious kill. The spectators doubled their noise.
The game ended when Hannibal’s Shana Terrill tipped the ball out of bounds to hand Marshall the victory.
“(Moore) became a leader today,” Hannibal coach Amber King said. “She played consistently and was thinking about what she was doing the whole game.”
Marshall, last year’s runner-up, defeated Fulton and Helias, last year’s champion, to reach the final. Three seniors led the Owls. Melissa Yokely had 17 assists, Sara Malan had nine digs and Linze Leimkuehler had seven kills.
The tournament began with pool play to determine seeds for the final rounds. Rock Bridge (6-11-3) split its two-game set against Marshall and then defeated Mexico by a combined total of 32 points to earn a No. 1 seed.
The Bruins received a bye for the first round, then fell to Hannibal 25-14, 19-25, 25-9.
“Volleyball’s just such a ‘momentum’ sport,” Rock Bridge coach Vicki Reimler said. “You can win one game, switch sides of the net and suddenly go from winning big to losing big.”
The Bruins struggled defensively in the first game.
“Once we get down, it’s hard to get back up,” setter Taran Eckenrode said.
In the second game, the Bruins capitalized on Hannibal miscues. The Pirates had trouble keeping the ball in bounds and difficulty serving.
“We just were unfocused,” King said. “One mistake led to another, and they couldn’t let it go. And it spread to every player.”
Reimler said the Bruins hoped to continue to gain control of the action in the third game.
“Sometimes we rely too much on other people to control the momentum,” Reimler said.
In the consolation bracket, Rock Bridge lost to Helias, 25-12, 25-13. The Bruins entered the match feeling confident, despite losing to the Crusaders earlier in the season.
“We thought when we saw those girls again, we’d beat them,” setter Ashley Selby said. “Everyone wanted it so bad.”
The Bruins were unable to focus in the second game and the level of teamwork plummeted.
“I think teamwork’s still an issue for us,” Selby said. “Everybody does their own individual awesome thing, and that’s good, but everybody’s kind of separate too.”
Reimler said: “There are no excuses at this point.”