Haley Rothove was a nervous wreck.
The Blue Springs senior needed to renew her driver’s license, since she just turned 18, and knew that one of the biggest volleyball matches of her life was Monday night in the Wildcats gymnasium.
The 11th annual Dig Pink Cancer Awareness Volleyball match against crosstown rival Blue Springs South had extra meaning for Rothove, whose grandmother, Jeannie Oltmer, battled breast cancer and would be in the stands along with her grandfather, Bill Oltmer, who had prostate cancer.
“I went to get my license renewed and decided to stop and get my grandma a bouquet of flowers,” said Rothove, who was a spark for the Wildcats in a tough 25-9, 25-27, 25-17 win by the rival Jaguars.
“I was really crazy all day because all my family and friends were coming to the game, and my grandma and grandpa were going to be there, it was the Cancer Awareness game and we were playing South,” Rothove said. “But once the game started, we were able to just concentrate on the game.
“And even though the final score didn’t indicate it, I felt like we won. We had great support from our fans and we played well against a very good team.”
Before the game started, cancer survivors were asked to stand so they could receive a single flower. Haley ran into the stands and presented her grandma with her bouquet.
“That was one of the best parts of the night for me,” said Rothove, who led the Wildcats with nine kills. “It was a great night, even though we didn’t get the win.”
It was a great night for coach Dave MacLean’s senior-less Jaguars, too, who improved to 21-6 overall and 8-1 in Suburban Big Seven play.
“I think our inexperience showed in the second set,” said junior middle hitter Hannah LaPour, who had 13 blocks for the Jaguars. “But we came back and won the third set, and that was big – a big confidence booster.”
The Jaguars rolled to victory in the first set, came back from a 20-13 deficit in the second set to knot the score at 25-all, before Hannah Vanriette’s kill put an end to the thriller and dominated play on the front row to claim the third set and the match.
“We’re young, and we made some mistakes young teams make,” MacLean said. “Plus we’re playing Katie’s kids and they are always tough. We’re getting better and better and gaining a bit of maturity every time we play.”
Wildcats coach Katie Grusing was disappointed in the outcome but not the play of her team or the support of the Wildcats’ fans.
“This is my 10th year and I can never remember a night like this with support from both schools, it was pretty amazing,” Grusing said after the Wildcats fell to 7-13 and 2-7. “It was an emotional night for everyone, and our girls came out really played well.
“I know it was emotional for Haley, and she has really become a leader on our team. She had a couple of early kills in the second set and really set the pace for the win.”