Season opener. Shiny new floor. Bitter rival. Yes, Truman’s volleyball team had plenty of reasons to be pumped up Tuesday night.
Too pumped? Maybe a little. But not enough to let William Chrisman spoil the big night in the Patriots’ refurbished gym. Truman overcame some early jitters and rolled to a 25-14, 25-19 victory over its Noland Road rival.
“We were beyond excited,” Truman sophomore Sarina Ulberg said. “We were pumped up all week, all month. When it came to tonight we came and we showed up and it was great.”
All that hoopla could spell trouble for a young team like Truman, which has only three seniors on its roster and won only five matches all last season. But with Ulberg, a middle hitter, and senior outside hitter Marlee Guenthe finding well-placed kills in the middle of the floor, the Patriots handled their emotions just fine.
“Once they settled in, they did well,” Truman coach David Gardner said. “Early on we were a little anxious, we were rushing some stuff. But then we kind of settled down and we did OK.”
Chrisman, which started last year’s 13-19 season with a loss to Truman, took advantage of the Patriots’ early nerves to force an 8-8 tie with a 5-1 run early in the first set. The Bears were within 11-9 when Truman took control with a 9-0 run that ended with two middle-floor kills from Ulberg.
“I have faith in every single one of my teammates,” Guenthe said. “And I knew they were going to do their job tonight and I knew I was going to do mine as well.”
Chrisman stayed close early in the second set, as well, before Truman started pulling away. The Bears were within 13-9 before unforced errors and the Patriots’ hitters extended the margin to 20-12. Guenthe and Ulberg provided the Patriots’ last three points to finish the match.
“We try to get the ball to the people who are going to terminate,” Gardner said. “Everybody’s got to be ready to play at all times and against really good teams, we aren’t going to be able to rely on them because other teams are going to shut them down.”
Chrisman’s attack relied on sophomore Courtney Taylor and junior Giavanna Moore, who led the Bears with five kills apiece. Moore also had a team-high 14 digs.
It just wasn’t enough to overcome a sky-high rival showing off its fancier surroundings.
“We’re getting better every day,” Chrisman coach Mary Lile said. “It’s just going to take time for us. We’re going to get better as long as we keep working hard.”