It’s 5:50 p.m. at Rock Bridge, and groans echo throughout the gym. After nearly a three-hour practice, coach Beth Newton sends her volleyball team, mumbling and scowling with contempt, to the baseline for sprints.
The women line up and, upon the shriek of their coach’s whistle, pump their arms and legs with their last ounces of energy. They have one minute to traverse the length of the court eight times, sprinting to one end of the court and backpedaling back. Then, they have to do it again.
The team knows that the end of practice is in reach, but it must be earned.
After the players’ first muscle-straining journey across the hardwood, halfway through their conditioning for the day, hands hit knees and hips. Players bend over in an attempt to force oxygen into their lungs.
That is, except for Allie Smith, who can be seen bouncing on the balls of her feet, encouraging her teammates to stand up and, most impressively of all, smiling.
“Speedy Gonzales, that’s what we call her,” Newton said of Smith. “She never stops.”
A senior co-captain, Smith leads the Bruins with her speed and endurance, commodities that pay huge dividends as the season progresses.
During any match, Smith, the team’s starting setter, can be seen on the court more than most of the Bruins. But as the game goes on and opponents get tired, Newton said that is when Smith catches her second wind.
“She won’t get tired,” Newton said. “She always has that endurance with her, and that’s a great thing to have on the court.”
Smith’s endurance is a product of her budding track career. She has run in various sprinting events since sixth grade. For her, being on the court so much is a blessing rather than a curse.
“Man, I love it,” Smith said after practice, sweat glistening from her forehead. “I’d be out there for the entire game if they’d let me. I just love being out on the court. That’s why I’m here.”
Newton is happy to have Smith’s leadership and stamina on the court, especially in such an important position as setter. To the coach, Smith’s endurance is not just important, it’s vital.
“Setters can run two or three miles in a match sometimes,” Newton said. “You’ve got to have her out there. The whole offense runs through her, and if you have a setter as good as Allie, she can turn bad passes into points.”
Smith’s co-captain, senior outside hitter Lindsey McDaniel, said that her speedy counterpart brings much more than just stamina to the table for the Bruins.
“She brings a lot of energy to the court with her, and she brings a kind of fire,” McDaniel said. “She’s just a lot of fun to play with.”
Smith’s endurance will be needed if her team hopes to have success in the upcoming stretch of the season. After a difficult yet sparse schedule that featured just eight matches in the first month of the season, the Bruins will play six matches, three tournaments, and the district championships in 18 days.
Smith said the brutal stretch, which begins today at home against Osage, should tell a significant amount about the team’s heart and endurance.
“If we go out there and get on a roll, nobody’s even going to notice how many matches we’re playing,” Smith said. “But if we start to get down, that’s when we’re going to get frustrated and tired.”
Though her efforts, far beyond what many expect from a 5-foot-5 setter, never seem to stop on the court, Smith admitted that after matches, she finds herself exhausted.
“I don’t feel it during the game, but when I get home, I’m out,” Smith said. “It takes a toll on me.”