By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
MARSHFIELD – A year ago, Libby Kish detoured to the junior varsity for the first time in her career, and Ashley Warren was there, too, waiting her turn as the Rogersville High School volleyball team marched on to a state championship.
Fortunately for Kish and Warren, they didn’t sulk but instead took mental notes. And now look.
The two middle blockers joined All-Stater Birdie Hendrickson on a kills binge and strong play at the net Thursday night, helping the Lady Wildcats turn back the upset-seeking Marshfield Lady Jays 25-22, 22-18 in a key Central Ozark Conference match at Marshfield High School.
Hendrickson was her usual, dominate self as she turned in a game-high 11 kills and 15 digs. But just months after the team graduated a pair of all-conference middle blockers, Kish and Warren showed Rogersville could be just as dangerous again.
The two combined for 11 kills on a night when Marshfield rallied for a 16-15 advantage in the opening set and was closing fast later in the second one.
“It’s nice to come out and play for each other,” Kish said. “We get excited for each other – scream at each other.”
Call it an encouraging sign for Rogersville, which graduated Gabby Masengale and Macy McHenry.
“I liked what I saw out of my middles tonight. We still have some things to work on,” Rogersville coach Tammy Miller said. “But baby steps – that’s the most important thing.”
Samantha Thompson had 31 assists, Claire Taylor eight digs and nine kills while Rogersville had three aces.
Miller elaborated by noting of Kish and Warren, “They transitioned better. And they contributed to our offense, and I thought that was a big factor.”
In the opening set, Hendrickson had seven kills, three that accounted for Rogersville’s final points. But the first of those three followed a Warren kill and a 22-19 advantage. Kish forced several disruptions at the net, too.
They also were partly responsible for Rogersville taking 10-5 and 19-11 advantages in the second set.
Said Marshfield coach Jarod Olson, “They’re a great team, they’ve got a great coach and have a special player.”
All this after Kish was a casualty of Rogersville turning to a different midseason scheme last year, when Warren was in her first year on JV.
“We have a strong front line not only on offense but on defense, too,” Hendrickson said, later adding, “We played well as a team tonight. It wasn’t six individuals playing against six individuals.”
Marshfield (14-6) certainly had a lot of positives. For one, the Lady Jays fired up the home crowd by going on the attack, never letting Rogersville build more than a four-point advantage until near the end of the opening set.
In fact, the Lady Jays were trailing 13-9 when Brooklyn Crawford’s kill fueled a run in which Marshfield outscored Rogersville 7-2 to take the lead. A block, an Emily Aldridge ace, another Crawford kill and another block had Marshfield in position for an upset.
Unofficially, Crawford finished with nine kills, five digs and four blocks for Marshfield, which saw Addison Crider contribute six kills while Alliyah Joiner had seven digs.
A year ago, Marshfield took Rogersville to three sets in the district final. This year, Olson has beefed up the schedule, and the team recently welcomed back Joiner, a libero who had missed several weeks due to injury.
“We feel like we can play with anybody in the state. This is good for us to see what we need to do to play a little cleaner,” Olson said.
He noted that he liked his team’s quickness and that he sensed a good road ahead if Joiner stays healthy.
“We played bigger schools at Hickman (in a tournament) and, without her, you could sense we were missing a gear,” Olson said. “But we’ve got that gear now. I think our chemistry is coming back.”