ARGENTA — The harsh reality of life in athletics is that the ultimate goal is never really achieved. Winners and losers alike strive to be the best, but in the final analysis, there is always something to improve.
St. Teresa defeated St. Joseph-Ogden 25-16, 25-20 Thursday in a Class 2A sectional volleyball title match at Argenta-Oreana’s Kimler Gymnasium.
St. Teresa coach Karen Wooden had a list of areas in which her Bulldogs could have done better. SJ-O coach Abby McDonald had a list of things she wished her team had done better.
The night’s outcome means St. Teresa (33-6) moves on and that SJ-O (25-9) loses out on advancement.
The truth is both teams achieved, reaching the Sweet 16 in Class 2A. St. Teresa left with the smiles that come with the satisfaction of a victory. SJ-O departed with the tears that flow freely after a season ends.
The difference between elimination and a third-set tiebreaker for SJ-O was five points.
“Prior to the season, there was a lot of doubt whether we’d end up with 20 wins,” McDonald said. “We were pretty much starting over this season.
“I had to take a different approach, more teaching than I was used to. They believed in themselves and in the system. Our goal was to be prepared for the postseason.”
The Spartans more than accomplished that mission.
“It would have been easy to submit to everyone’s expectations that we’d be a .500 team,” senior Shelby Simmons said. “We never let that affect us; never stopped. We’d spend one more hour in the gym.”
As important as Simmons was to the offense — she landed a team-high 10 kills against the Bulldogs — her greatest value was in mentoring a group of young players and helping them become varsity-ready.
“She let the kids lean on her, and she taught them a lot, McDonald said. “She taught them more about the game than any kid we’ve had.”
Simmons’ role wasn’t difficult, she said, because “they wanted to learn. It was a great group of girls to be around.”
The Spartans came out swinging in the first set. Freshman Kylie Michael had all of the team’s first three points on kills.
Michael, who has given up basketball to devote all of her energies to volleyball, doesn’t consider her chronological age.
“I don’t think of myself as a freshman,” she said. “I think of us as a team. Everyone is the same. We executed and got better as the season went on.”
SJ-O provided St. Teresa an even greater challenge in the second set, using three blocks for point to build a 6-2 lead. Sophomore Marissa McElroy had three blocks and Michael two in the final set. Junior Alyssa Beals had two blocks overall.
Five of the seven Spartans who started (including the libero) are underclassmen. Michael finished with six kills.
“I see three more amazing years for her,” Simmons said.
McDonald sees promise and potential in the years ahead.
“I’m excited about the future,” she said. “Now they know what it feels like to be here. The nerves won’t be there.”
McElroy finished with three kills. Sophomore setter Karlie Baker handed out 18 assists.
Simmons’ play impressed St. Teresa’s Wooden.
“We knew to keep an eye on their big hitter, No. 5,” she said. “We focused on her, but she still got hits through our block.”
The match result won’t be what Simmons remembers prominently about Thursday’s farewell performance.
“We had the community support, and the atmosphere was wonderful,” she said. “Football got out (of practice) early to catch the fan bus. I saw faces here I’ve never seen at a volleyball game before.”