Healthy Simpson provided results

Thursday, December 11, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com
Brooke Simpson leaps for a kill against Ash Grove during the Class 2 state semifinals in Kansas City, Mo.

The Scott City volleyball team could not afford for anyone to get injured with just seven players on its varsity roster this fall.

It was especially important for junior middle hitter Brooke Simpson to stay healthy because she was the most experienced player on the young but talented Rams squad.

Simpson had missed time during her freshman and sophomore years with ankle injuries.

"I was always conscious about it, thinking about it," Simpson said. "I just hoped and prayed that I wouldn't roll anything or that none of my teammates would get hurt because we only had seven girls. So anybody that came up with any injury, it would be a problem."

She went the entire season without re-injuring her ankles and powered the Rams to a 37-3-3 record and a second-place finish in Class 2. She recorded 336 kills and 240 digs through district play, and is the 2008 Southeast Missourian Player of the Year.

CHUCK WU ~ cwu@semissourian.com
Brooke Simpson helped lead her team to the Class 2 state championship match.

Simpson also received all-state honors, being selected to the Class 2 first team.

She led the Rams to their first appearance in the state final four in school history. Scott City had won two district titles in each of Simpson's first two seasons, but never before had advanced past the Class 2 quarterfinals.

Simpson wore an ankle brace during practices and games, but did not feel any pain in either ankle the enitre fall.

"I definitely felt I liked this year more than the other ones because our whole team was more successful and it was the first year I went injure-free, which was a miracle," Simpson said. "I was so grateful for that. I definitely enjoyed our success as a whole."

The Rams were inexperienced after graduating seven seniors off the 2007 team. Two of their seven varsity players this season were freshmen, and they had one foreign exchange student, Anna Laitinen, who also was in her first year of high school volleyball.

Still, Simpson noticed early on that the newcomers were talented.

"Every year has been successful and I've played on great teams, but this year it was different," Simpson said. "This summer after we won the Osage League, I definitely saw a lot of potential for our whole team. After our first loss, we didn't want to lose at all anymore. We wanted to go all the way and win it. I definitely saw it."

Simpson knew she had an important role because she already had been on the varsity for two years.

"I definitely tried to be a leader, especially since I was one of the few who had the most experience," Simpson said. "I tried to keep up the intensity out on the court and keep everyone up, even when we'd lose a point or two."

Freshman Katie Hogan said Simpson led by both her strong play and voice.

"When we got down, she would be one of the two ... to tell us to get back up and she'd get a couple kills in a row and bring up back up to have the momentum," Hogan said. "She knows how to hit the ball, she knows how to pass [and] she's a good server. If we need someone to put the ball away, she was there."

Laitinen said it seemed as though Simpson was able to put down a strong kill whenever she was passed the volleyball. Laitinen added that Simpson was one of the players who always explained things to her while she made her transition to varsity volleyball.

Simpson and the Rams certainly dominated, posting 34 sweeps. They won the Arkansas State University Playday tournament by sweeping the champion match against Nettleton, Ark., which reached the Arkansas state quarterfinals.

Simpson posted 55 kills and 20 blocks during the tournament, which she said was one of her favorite memories from the season.

"It looked really, really great for us to come out and beat them," Simpson said. "We split with them in pool play, so in the championship game, it just made us more fired up and wanting to beat them. That was one of my favorite matches."

Simpson also had a strong showing in the state final four. During pool play on the first day of the tournament, she led her team to the second-best record (4-2) by posting 22 kills, 24 digs and six service aces. During the second day, Simpson and the Rams lost to Hermann in the championship match 25-23, 25-19, but Simpson finished with 12 kills.

"Obviously the state championship match was probably the most memorable," Simpson said. "We did lose, but it's something I'll never forget."

Simpson will play club volleyball during the offseason with a team that includes Scott City teammate Katie Diebold and Notre Dame players Meghan Dohogne and Shannon Brennan.

"I just hope we can all stay in shape," she said. "I hope we can work really hard because now we know what it's like to go to the state tournament and want to win. I think we'll just want it even more this year and during the offseason."

Simpson has high hopes for next season with everyone returning except Laitinen.

"I have no doubt that we'll be going back to state," Simpson said. "I know we can make it back. ... We'll have just as much potential next year to go back and be as successful as we were this year."

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