Metaphorically speaking, it was the biggest the Rams had stepped on in quite some time as they've hummed along undefeated this season.
It was the last match of the regular season and senior night for Scott City, which starts six seniors. The Rams were facing the Perryville Pirates, a team that had positioned itself squarely behind Scott City as the second best team in Southeast Missouri.
"Tonight was good because it was the last game, senior night, good team, so we got to see how we were going to handle our own emotions," Hoffman said. "The mental game is so huge when it comes to high school sports, so that allowed us to see how we were going to handle it."
The host Rams handled it all -- the stage, the emotions and their opponent -- with apparent ease, defeating Perryville 25-18, 25-15.
Katie Hogan and Simpson provided the usual fireworks for the Scott City offense. The seniors both recorded kills from the front row and the back, from the outside and the middle, with soft tips and with booming smashes.
But it was the Rams' ability to systematically pick apart the Pirates that allowed them to separate themselves Wednesday night.
Perryville has a powerful offense of its own. Senior Marissa Erwin started the match with a big kill in the middle, and junior Natalie Gremaud, who also is capable of creating offense from anywhere on the court, recorded three kills in the first eight points of the match.
"We knew that we had to close the block whenever Natalie Gremaud was in the front row," Hogan said. "They like to do a really fast shoot set out to her outside.
Erwin added just two more kills in the match, while Gremaud added four more over the final 75 points.
"We know that their middle hitters like to hit to the setter's spot," Hogan said. "So if we scoot our block over a little that way and give our defense digs to me and Mikah on the left side, then that would help out our transition game and attacking game."
It was that kind of detailed planning, followed by the much more difficult task of executing it, that aided Scott City's defense against Perryville's attack.
"There was lots of times when I thought we had a kill, we had an ace and then the ball keeps coming back across the net," Perryville coach Dave Mirly said. "Good teams are going to do that. I'm sure there were several times when they thought it was down and we popped it back up."
"Tonight we did an excellent job of our front row talking to our back row," Hoffman said. "The front row would say, 'OK, this girl, she is going to hit to left back.' They may say that and they would talk to the back row and say, 'OK, I'm going to take that away.'
"So my middle back would know she needs to move this way because that's going to be taken away, so she might hit this way. Just their communication about the smallest details was there tonight between front row, back row, setter, hitter. I mean, it was just really nice."
Perryville led 13-10 in Game 2 before Scott City closed the match on a 15-2 run.
"It was a good game," Mirly said. "I wish the score would've been a little closer so we competed, but they just went on those two long runs that just killed us. Each game, one long run each game."
Perryville finished its regular season 27-3. It lost to Scott City in the SEMO Spike tournament and a 26-24, 25-23 setback to Lesterville, the only team to mar Scott City's 28-0-1 record with a tie.
Hogan finished with nine kills, two stuff blocks and two aces. Simpson had 10 kills and three stuff blocks. Those statistics, while impressive, can't convey Simpson's influence at the net, including multiple touches on attacks.
"Usually it's in preseason, first month, whatnot that players ask a lot of questions," Hoffman said. "This is her time. She's asking a lot of questions, and it's about everything. It's about how can I jump higher, how can I see the court better? It's more detailed questions than normal, but she wants to continue to get better. She's not satisfied yet."
Both teams now can look ahead to postseason play. Perryville, which will try to capture its first district title since 1997, is the top seed in Class 3 District 1, which includes rival and No. 2 seed Notre Dame.
Scott City, the 2009 Class 2 state champion, is the top seed in Class 2 District 2 again this season after being shocked in the title match by St. Vincent last year.
"Their defense is so good," Mirly said about Scott City. "In the past, I thought we could have an advantage if we attacked them and served aggressively. This year we just can't do that. Their defense and serve receive is so good, and that gives them such a good chance to hit.
"If they play like they did tonight, I don't see them losing. They're going to go undefeated."