William Chrisman didn’t go easy on its former volleyball coach Thursday night – or her new team.
Vanessa Jones coached her first match at Chrisman since moving down U.S. 24 to helm her alma mater Fort Osage's program, and the Bears greeted her by sweeping the Indians in a Suburban Middle Seven match, 25-22, 25-16.
“It was really different,” Jones said of the homecoming. “I always enjoy coming back here and seeing friends, the staff that was here tonight – and, of course, the girls. I’ve always had a good relationship with them. It’s nice coming back and seeing them all.”
In preparing Fort Osage for the match, Jones didn’t discuss the reunion with her players, she said.
“I think they put enough pressure on themselves that I don’t want to add any more pressure,” Jones said.
Nor was the reunion a focal point for Haley Rodriguez, who had the match-winning kill.
“When I’m in the game, I don’t think about it,” Rodriguez said. “I do what my coach tells me to. But it’s nice seeing her – and she’s brought Fort Osage a long way. That was a closer ... (match) than it would’ve been last year.”
The first game was close throughout, with Fort Osage (6-12-2 overall, 1-7 league) leading for much of it. Trailing 20-17, the Bears outscored the Indians 8-2 down the stretch to win it.
However, Chrisman (10-11-1, 3-6) led from the opening point in the finale and threatened to build a double-digit lead. Rodriguez attributed the difference in the two games to Chrisman’s attitude.
“Coach (Chrisman coach Dean Rausch) said to go out there like we had lost the first — go out there hungry and ready to win the next one,” she said. “So we really had a mindset of that and brought a lot of energy to the court, and it helped a lot.”
Jones felt that Chrisman’s attitude was different during the finale.
“It came down to who wanted it and who was willing to be mentally prepared for it,” she said.
By contrast, Fort Osage had the wrong attitude for the finale – at least early on, senior outside hitter Asia Cole said.
“I felt like we came out really quiet – and we should’ve been a little louder, more talkative, more sure of ourselves,” Cole said. “I feel, as a senior, I didn’t do my part a lot with the talking and I should’ve been there (for my teammates).”
Midway through, the Indians “started picking it up a lot” and made a push, Cole added. But they didn’t have enough of a comeback in them for a victory, she said.
Rausch, on the other hand, said the Bears “were hurrying” in the first game and suggested they concentrated more on being fundamentally sharp in the finale. They’ve struggled with their fundamentals this season, he admitted.
“Old habits die hard – and some of them have some habits that we would like to see leave,” Rausch said. “But they’re getting there.”
One habit Rausch and his staff are trying to get Rodriguez to break is her “tendency to hit some (shots) out of bounds” by improving the control of her swing. She showed that tendency Tuesday night at Belton. Her last shot went out of play, she recalled.
Rodriguez considered her match-clinching shot Thursday as a makeup for Tuesday’s error.
“I was pretty happy,” she said. “(That was) what Coach wanted.”