The Truman High School kiddie corps took off the training wheels Monday.
The Patriots rode to a sizzling 24-26, 25-20, 25-18 victory over William Chrisman in the third annual I-Town Showdown on Labor Day morning that left the large crowd inside the Patriots gym nearly as breathless as the volleyball players from each of the Noland Road rival schools.
The Patriots – who do not have a senior on their squad – used the brilliant back row/front row play of junior Bri Savidge and the front line dominance of junior Lexi Hart to overcome the first-game loss in a thrill-a-minute match that showcased talent from both Independence High Schools.
While Savidge and Hart – who was the attention of several Division I coaches in attendance – starred for the Patriots, Haley Rodriguez and serving standout Lacey Harris helped the Bears get off to a successful start in the annual Labor Day matchup that had to be moved from the Santa-Cali-Gon Days festival on The Square inside to Truman because of weather concerns.
“I am a volleyball purist,” second-year Chrisman coach Dean Rausch said, “so I am happy a match like this was played in a gymnasium and not outdoors. Even though we didn’t win, we played extremely well and can use all the things we learned today down the road.
“I’ll play Truman every night because you know you’re going to be going up against one the best coached teams in the area and a team with great talent. They’re young, that’s true, but (Savidge and Hart) are great young players.
“I’m sure everyone who was here today enjoyed what they saw – even the Chrisman fans – because they were able to see some great, great volleyball.”
The crowd read like an area who’s who of coaches from different sports and different schools. Former Truman boys basketball coach Steve Broughton and his new bride, Amy, sat next to the scorer’s table for a portion of the match. Broughton is battling pancreatic cancer that spread to his liver, and he seemed to enjoy himself in the gymnasium he called his second home for 14 years.
“This is what volleyball is all about!” an enthusiastic Truman coach Denise Craig said after hugging everyone in the gym wearing Truman red, white and blue. “Oh, my goodness – Chrisman’s girls played so well, and then Bri took over the second game.
“And then Lexi did her thing in the third game. And my babies grew up today. I’m so proud of these kids. You know, when you were kidding around with Lexi and Bri before the start of the season asking them if they felt like babysitters because we are so young – I don’t think they felt like babysitters today. They saw those babies grow up right before their eyes.”
The youthful Patriots sported a few deer-in-the-headlights looks in losing the first game as Rachel Losch and Rodriguez starred on the front row and Harris used a flat-footed, spinning serve technique to wrap up point after point for Chrisman.
“We didn’t play well the first game,” said Savidge, who finished with 12 kills and 11 digs. “But about midway through the second game we found our rhythm and really started to play well as a team.”
Hart, who finished with 18 kills, quickly added, “At 18-all, Bri just took it over. She had like three kills in a row and we all wanted to set her because she was so hot. Whether she was on the front row or back row, she got the job done.”
The minute the second game ended, Savidge and Hart joined their young teammates in a joyful celebration on the court as the Patriot fans stomped on the bleachers and showered Craig’s squad with applause.
“This was a great morning,” said Savidge, who was not thrilled about playing outside. “You never know what can happen outside. I wanted to play inside, because we’re young and we’re playing our big rival and I want it to be about volleyball.
“I want the best team to win, and today, there were two very good teams in our gym and we are so thrilled to get this victory.”
Even in defeat, Rodriguez said she could appreciate taking part in a special match.
“I don’t know Lexi and the other Truman girls personally, but I know of them from reading about them and watching them play and I have so much respect for them,” said Rodriguez, who finished with 12 kills.
“This was a great match. We wish we would have won, but we learned today that we have to work harder and play together as a team to be a team like Truman. And I think we will. It was a pretty special match and I think fans from both schools have a lot to be proud of.”