Heather Grice and Lindsey Fleming aren’t the flashiest players on the volleyball court.
Their precise passes don’t illicit roaring cheers from the crowd like a powerful spike or rally-killing block, but Hickman coach Greg Gunn said his back row players have been crucial to the success of the team.
“Passes are the prettiest thing to a coach,” Gunn said.
The No. 1 seed Kewpies (20-9-2) will look for another solid performance from their back row when they host No. 4 Rock Bridge (11-17-1) in the semifinals of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament at 5:30 tonight.
The winner will play in the tournament championship at 8:30. No. 2 Troy-Buchanan and No. 3 Hannibal play in the other semifinal at 7.
Grice, a senior, has played primarily in the back row for the Bruins this year after playing front row in past years.
“I used to love hitting and playing front row,” she said. “Now, I love back row and I realize it is just as important as playing front row.”
Gunn said players like Fleming and Grice make everyone else on the court better.
“The hitters and the setters all know that nothing can happen without a good pass,” he said.
Fleming, another senior, began playing back row two seasons ago. She said she has adapted well to defensive specialist.
“It’s how we work as a team,” Fleming said. “The defense is on only because the blocks are up from the front and the front can get kills through good passing from the defense. It’s a full circle.”
Fleming said she doesn’t have a problem with not getting to spike the ball and being out of the spotlight.
“When Kenny (Kendra Williams) gets 10 kills in a game, I know it is because her passes were up there and I know I had my part in it,” she said. “I don’t need my picture in the paper.”
Grice said everyone on the team is treated equally.
“Your teammates still give you the praise you deserve for the effort you put out no matter where you play,” she said.
Gunn said his players approach to their positions has been crucial to the Kewpies’ success.
“The function of a team hinges on everybody’s acceptance of their role,” he said. “They are not envious, they know the way to move up is to play their role as best they can.”
Fleming said she has different responsibilities than she did when she played front row.
“You have to be able to read people more,” she said. “You have to be familiar with everybody else on the court. The hitters have emphasis on power and placement while the back row players need agility and quickness.”
Fleming said the high stress, wide-open style of play in the back row is something she wouldn’t give up now even if she had the option.
“I love the adrenaline of not knowing where the ball is going to go and having to get it up,” she said. “Having to go all over the court and communicate with everybody, observing the other team and anticipating where the block is going to go is amazing.
“It is a humble position, but I don’t mind it.”