It’s one of the basic rules of the road: Red means stop.
On Thursday night, that rule carried onto the Hickman volleyball court, and the Kewpies were forced to obey the law.
Jefferson City’s blocking stood tall against a barrage of Hickman swings, leading the crimson-clad Jays past the Kewpies on Thursday night, 20-25, 25-17, 25-19.
Every time the ball went up, it was met with a wall of Jays blockers and became a mere white dot in a scarlet sea. Caitlin Keith, a Hickman outside hitter, said she expected the Jays to focus on their block.
“They always block well,” said Keith, tying her shoes on the bleachers after the game.
Keith was one of the Kewpies to face the Jefferson City blockers on a consistent basis throughout the game and admitted that rising only to be met by defenders can be jolting.
“It can be intimidating,” Keith, a senior, said. “You’re supposed to be told by someone else on the floor how many blockers you are facing as you go up, but if you don’t see them, you can really get surprised.”
Coach Greg Gunn looked visibly frustrated after the game, and said that Jefferson City’s stellar blocking is no excuse not to put the ball down.
“You should be able to play around it,” Gunn said. “You’ve got to move the ball around the court.”
The Kewpies had more success getting around the block as the game progressed, but they ultimately did not have enough to top the Jays. Gunn said that the team makes changes as the game goes along, but it is an ongoing battle throughout.
“It’s a thing where you are making constant adjustments,” Gunn said. “It has to do with everything. What offense are they running? Where are you setting it? But there is always player transitioning, so you can never say ‘this is what you do to beat it.’
“Every point is different. Every rally is different.”
Chloe Perkins, a sophomore outside hitter, breathed heavily after the game, a result of taking many swings from various places on the court. Many of Perkins’ attempts came back at her, but she described ways of beating the block.
“You have to know where you are on the court, and where the blockers are,” Perkins said. “You can hit it at a different angle, or hit it more down the line. Or you can hit it over them.”
Height was also against Hickman on Thursday night, physically overmatched by the taller Jays team. The Kewpies, whose tallest player is 5-foot-11, faced adversity from their stature all season, and Gunn said that height always plays a factor.
“It sure helps,” Gunn chuckled. “It’s nice to be a tall person in this game. We’ve got girls who can jump, but you can’t move once you’re in the air. There’s the advantage.”
Despite being dominated at the net, Keith remained upbeat after the game, saying that she knows that vision is how to fix the problem.
“You just have to see the blockers,” Keith said. “That’s it. That’s when you can beat them.”