For the second straight time, the Rock Bridge girls basketball team finished its regular season at 22-2. The Bruins, ranked No. 4 in the state, duplicated the mark with a 44-35 win against Helias on Thursday. However, to Bruins coach Jill Nagel, this season was much different than the previous one.
“Our theme this year was ‘undaunted,’ meaning nothing affects us,” Nagel said. “If all doesn’t go our way, we just let it roll off our backs.”
The players had pitched the idea to Nagel all the way back in the summer. At first, however, it was not well received by their coach.
“At first I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know.’” Nagel said. “The more I thought about it, the more it grew on me. I looked it up in the dictionary and knew that it really needed to define our team this year.”
To Bruins junior Claire Schaeperkoetter, the word was more than a definition.
“It means that we really just have ourselves out on the court,” Schaeperkoetter said. “We play for everyone in the team.”
Rock Bridge was tested early in the season. After opening with a 34-33 win over St. Joseph’s Academy, the Bruins lost their next two games, 40-31 to Saint Howell and 41-39 to Liberty, leaving the Bruins at 1-2.
“I think everybody was wondering what was going on.” Nagel said. “Last year, we only lost three games total and for three games we had already lost two.”
Schaeperkoetter said the team’s spirit had reached a low point.
“We were a good team,” Schaeperkoetter said. “We just had to go on the court and prove it.”
The Bruins needed to refocus, and it was up to the seniors to come through. They called a team meeting without their coach. Nagel said she thought it was something the seniors had to do to get the team back on track.
“Give our captains credit. They had a meeting with the team and got the team together,” Nagel said. “I’m not sure what was said, but whatever it was, it worked and we won 20 straight.”
Nagel said her team’s ability to overcome that kind of obstacle has become a signature of the team and is why it is so interesting that its season’s theme is so fitting.
“You go on the road, you don’t get calls, that’s the way its going to be,” Nagel said, “They don’t worry about it. They just play ball.”