The Rock Bridge volleyball team has had bigger struggles then trying to kill the ball at the end of a long rally.
Its struggle to disprove the label of a young, inexperienced team in a rebuilding season has been a far greater challenge than facing any 6-foot middle blocker.
The Bruins will try to put their rollercoaster regular season behind them when they travel to Hickman to face Fort Zumwalt West in the first round of the Class 4 District 8 tournament at 8:30 tonight.
In coach Beth Newton’s first season, the Bruins are 10-17-1 and have shown their inexperience at times.
“It is basically a whole new team,” Newton said. “I don’t have a regular player that was on the court the majority of the time last year.”
The team has one senior, three juniors and two sophomores in its starting rotation.
Sophomore Lindsey McDaniel said she thinks the team’s inexperience is no justification for losing.
“I want to win,” McDaniel said. “I don’t want to tell myself this is a rebuilding year because I don’t want to give myself or my team an excuse to not play to our potential.”
Senior Ashley Stanfill said she thinks the team has the capability to take down tough opponents and has yet to play its best volleyball.
“We all have the ability so I don’t consider it a rebuilding year,” she said. “It’s just that we haven’t put it all together yet.”
Newton said the lack of an experienced vocal leader has been a weak point.
“Sometimes we’re still a bunch of individuals on the court,” she said. “We don’t always play like a team.”
Newton said a vocal leader is also key to keeping up the team’s esteem.
“The hardest thing in volleyball is to not dwell on your mistakes,” she said. “The best players make mistakes. The thing is being positive enough to get past those mistakes.”
Newton said the Bruins haven’t always done that.
“I don’t see us being able to rally around the good things and get back on the positive side,” she said. “Once we get in a slump, we stay in a slump. We just don’t know how to turn it around.”
Newton said much of the blame lies on her own shoulders.
“When they lose, it is all my fault because they have the talent and the effort, I’m just not motivating them in the right way.”
McDaniel though, said Newton has been a good coach.
“She has implemented a lot of changes that have improved the team,” McDaniel said.
Some of the changes include double blocking every ball, running quick sets on offense, attacking from the back row and jump serving.
“We didn’t do any of that stuff last year,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the changes did involve a learning curve though.
“Being the first year that we’ve had these changes, it’s new to a lot of these girls,” she said. “We’ve been getting better and will do so next year too.”
Newton said the team has had a hard time realizing that translating improvement into victories is not easy.
“The team doesn’t change overnight,” she said. “That’s the hardest thing for the girls to understand. When they look at how far they’ve come from last year and see what they can do, they expect immediate success.”
In preparing for the district tournament, the Bruins have been trying to forget their mistakes and sub .500 record.
“At the beginning of the season, coach said we should use the season to prepare for districts, so at this point we’ve forgotten what our record was,” Stanfill said. “We’re just trying to relax and have fun. Hopefully we’ll be able to go out against Fort Zumwalt and show people what Rock Bridge volleyball is all about.”