The lightning that crackled and danced above William Chrisman High School had to take a back seat to the electricity inside the host team’s gymnasium as Noland Road rival Truman visited the Bears Monday night in the opening match of the season for both teams.
As the overflow student body sections rocked and rolled, Independence School District Superintendent Dale Herl leaned over to a fan and said, “I have never heard this gymnasium this loud for a volleyball match! This is great!”
Despite the Patriots winning 25-11, 25-17, players and coaches from both teams walked out with smiles on their faces.
“I am so proud of our school, especially our students who came out to support us tonight,” said Chrisman senior Camryn Holloman, who had four kills for the Bears. “A year or so ago, we wouldn’t have had this many people.
“I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this. Even though we lost, we can learn from our mistakes and this was a pretty amazing night.”
Teammate Morgan Bauman, who had four kills and a pair of aces, agreed.
“There was so much energy in the gym for both teams,” Bauman said. “The Truman kids were cheering for their team and our students were cheering for us. We may not play in front of a crowd like this the rest of the year – so this was a great way to start the season, even though we lost.”
The visiting Patriots had just three girls on their team with any varsity experience – Kaylynn Ward, Ulani Billimon and Marlee Guenther – but they dominated the night by taking a 5-0 lead in the first game and never looking back.
“We’re a young team, and the girls really stepped up and played well tonight,” second-year Truman coach David Gardner said. “We were able to get the momentum early and keep it throughout the two games.
“Our three girls with varsity experience played well, and Marlee is the type of player who leads by example. She can take a game over, as she showed tonight.”
Guenther had eight kills and, like the other competitors, lavished praise on the crowd.
“It was so loud tonight,” she said smiling. “Our students, their students – everyone was loud. It was an amazing atmosphere. It was an amazing way to start the season. I just wish every match could be played in an atmosphere like this because it just raises your level of play.”
Despite losing to the crosstown rival in her first match as the new head coach of the Bears, Mary Lile found plenty of reasons to smile.
“You can learn so many things from a loss, and tonight was a great learning experience for our girls,” she said. “We played well at times, and we can talk about the good things we did and the things we need to work on.
“The crowd was special, the fans from both schools really made it exciting for everyone here tonight.”