Entering Thursday night’s game against undefeated Helias, the Rock Bridge volleyball team didn’t appear to hold many advantages.
During the game, it became clear that the one edge that the Bruins did hold, height, would go for naught.
Rock Bridge struggled at the net and visiting Helias took full advantage, improving to 15-0 on the season with a 26-24, 25-19 victory over the Bruins on Thursday night.
With three players taller than 6 feet on the roster, including 6-foot-1 Kristin Lange, a senior middle blocker, Rock Bridge towers over most teams, including Helias, whose two tallest players are 6 feet. That, Lange said, is why managing only three blocks in the match hurts.
“It’s frustrating,” said Lange, who finished with four kills and one block. “We need to be able to close the block better. We know how to do it. Now we just have to do it.”
The nearly nonexistent middle block has haunted the Bruins in most of their games this season, allowing opposing middle hitters to swing free. Lange said neutralizing that particular position is key.
“The middle hitter is one of the most important players,” Lange said. “If you can shut her down, you can win. If you can get a block on her, you’re going to be in much better shape.”
Rock Bridge’s front line got hands on many of the Crusaders’ attacks, if even just a glancing tip. Getting a single finger on the ball, though not ideal, is fine by Lange, who said that Helias found ways around the Bruins’ hands.
“They were hitting the ball over the block most of the night,” Lange said. “When you get a tip on it, the ball slows down and makes it easier to dig.”
Staci Winter, a 6-foot junior outside hitter, said that improving the team’s blocking ability is key to the team’s success, especially heading into the second half of the season.
“It’s big, because if we don’t get the block up, the hitters can hit it wherever they want,” Winter said. “You have to get that block up, or else it’s going to be really tough to win.”
Rock Bridge coach Beth Newton, who was most concerned with the team’s 10 service errors, said the team blocked well in the first game, but fell off in the second. She cited the team’s emotions as the possible reason behind the decline at the net.
“Once we got down, we got frustrated,” Newton said, “and when we got frustrated, we didn’t block nearly as well.”
Blocking at the net has been a priority for Newton, devoting extra practice time to aiding the front-line players in setting up the middle block. Newton said that is the only way to get the team playing better at the net.
“We just have to practice, focus on it in practice,” Newton said. “It’s about getting the footwork down and working on using the hands. It takes time to get used to it. It’ll be back.”
The match ended a long break in the season for the Bruins, who last played in a victory over California on Sept. 19. Newton said that the real season starts now, and playing more matches will aid the team.
“We haven’t even played a tournament yet,” said Newton, whose Bruins will play in their first tournament Oct. 7 at Francis Howell North. “Once we get into a consistent playing schedule, we’ll start to get in a groove and things like blocking will come together.”