JEFFERSON CITY — The Rock Bridge volleyball team could not deliver the perfect welcome gift to its new coach Beth Newton, but did manage the next best thing.
Although the Bruins fell 25-11, 25-23 in their season opener to Helias on Monday, Newton said the team’s play pleased her.
“The first game was a little shaky,” she said. “The girls looked a little nervous, but then they came out in the second game and only lost by two points. I’m just happy.”
The Rock Bridge players credited much of their improvement in the second game to Newton.
“I think the second game shows how a new coach can affect us,” senior Ashley Stanfill said. “Her talk between games really helped. It got our minds focused off the first game.”
Stanfill led the Bruins with four kills.
Junior Amanda Hanson added two kills that tied the second game at one and changed the tone for the Bruins. She said Newton’s message was upbeat and allowed the team to forget its poor performance in the first game.
“She just wanted us to be more positive,” Hanson said. “She just told us to have a little fun.”
Newton said the team achieved its goal of improving after every game and the willingness of the team to learn impressed her.
“They respond to me very well,” she said. “Obviously we still have a lot of work to do, but the talent is there.”
Newton said though it is her first year coaching the Bruins, she thinks the team has the necessary camaraderie to win.
“We have a good core of juniors who have been playing with each other for a while,” she said. “I think they’ll come out and play really strong as the season progresses.”
Newton also said the leadership of the two starting seniors is a strong point of the team.
“Our two seniors, Ashley Stanfill and Marissa Jeffrey bring a lot of experience to the court,” Newton said.
Setter Lindsey McDaniel is a sophomore, but Newton said she has an amazing amount of talent and will be a standout player down the line. McDaniel recorded a team-high nine assists in the loss.
Hanson said Helias is traditionally a tough opponent and even harder to start the season against. She said the team looks forward to the home opener tonight, with the junior varsity match starting at 6, against Jefferson City.
Stanfill said she thinks the team has a good chance against Jefferson City.
“Besides Hickman, Jeff City is our biggest rival,” Stanfill said. “Everyone always wants to beat them a little more. That along with the fact we don’t want to lose on our home court will pump us up a little more.”