Scott City expects Hermann to be toughest Class 2 foe

Friday, November 6, 2009

For a second consecutive year, the Scott City volleyball team is in the Class 2 final four, and today, for the second consecutive year, it enters play in Kansas City, Mo., with the No. 1 ranking in the state.

For a second consecutive year, the Rams expect Hermann to be the opponent that's hardest to beat, mostly because both teams lost only one key player who participated in last year's state championship match.

A lot of things are the same, yet the Rams say everything is different this time around.

"Last year my heart was beating so fast," senior Brooke Simpson said, rapidly tapping her chest with her palm. "I had butterflies in my stomach. I was like, 'I'm about to play for the state championship.' It was unreal.

"I think now we're going to be a little more relaxed going into the game. We already kind of know how the schedule runs, what kind of goes on up there and I think we'll be more prepared honestly."

"I feel like this year we're not as 'Oh my God. Oh my God. We're scared to death,'" Scott City coach Haley Jennings said. "Now they're like, 'We're going up there and we're doing this.'

"We know what we've got to do and we know we've got to play well, and I think just the determination this year is so much more intense than it was. Last year, it was more the excitement like, 'Oh my God, we're there.'"

It's the experience they gained last year that the Rams hope helps them avoid a second consecutive second-place finish. Scott City lost to Hermann in two games in the title match a year ago.

"At the beginning of the season we kind of started off slow," the Rams' Katie Hogan said after Scott City's quarterfinal win last weekend. "But now I think we can win state. Last year I thought we could do good, but this year we just have the hitting, the digging and we just bond as a team overall."

'More prepared'

Hogan and fellow starter Mikah Simpson both played big roles a year ago as freshmen.

"I felt like going into districts, going into sectionals and even going into quarterfinals we were more prepared," Mikah Simpson said. "Last year it was harder competition, but we knew what to expect. Last year going into state me and Katie were freshmen. We were scared. We were all nervous, but now we're just ready to go out and play. I'm excited."

Neither College Heights Christian nor Maryville, who will join Hermann and Scott City at the final four, were in Kansas City a year ago.

"That's the great thing because us and Hermann are the only two Class 2 teams that were there last year, so I mean we kind of know the environment, the gym," senior Brooke Simpson said. "We kind of know the atmosphere and what's going on in there, so I think that definitely gives us a big advantage."

The championship match loss to Hermann, a team that setter Katie Diebold said the Rams had never heard of before the final four a year ago, has never been far from players' minds this season.

"We've been talking about it all year, all summer," Jennings said. "We had coach [DongPing Fang] from Murray State come in and do a camp and we were just like, 'This is for Hermann.'"

Playing today

Scott City will not have to wait long for a rematch. Hermann, who also swept the Rams in pool play a year ago, is its first pool-play opponent at 9 a.m. today.

"The girls are so pumped about it," Jennings said. "They're like, 'We can't wait,' because last year we played them last and we knew they we're going to be tough. I always hate to play a good team last because you never know, throughout the day you get tired and run down, so hopefully playing them right off the bat will help us out."

Brooke Simpson called facing Hermann that early "kind of stressful," but she didn't anticipate it affecting the team's focus.

"Really I think we all just want to win," Brooke Simpson said. "We all want a little bit of revenge. We know they're going to be just as good as they were last year. The only person they lost was their setter, but they still have their big hitters."

The consensus among the Scott City players was that last year the Hermann offense was quicker than they anticipated and their own offense was not quick enough. This time around, they know what's coming and they've prepared.

"We got to block," Jennings said. "They have a big, quick offense, so we have to block and we have to have good defense for sure. Our offense has to be quick, too, so we've really sped up our offense this year."

Of course, there will be two other teams to contend with as well, but for now Scott City can just be happy the wait for its second chance at the school's first volleyball championship is over.

"Even Sunday was long," Mikah Simpson said of the time between the team's quarterfinal victory and the time it got on the bus headed back to the final four. "It was the first time I've ever wanted to be at school just because I knew it was one day closer to being in Kansas City. I'm serious."

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