Mental strength a winning strategy

Saturday, September 25, 2021
Libero Storie Linn digs a ball during the Lady Eagles’ win over Lockwood Thursday. Kyle Troutman/

Pierce City volleyball pushing for postseason glory

Skill and size are helpful to any volleyball team, but Pierce City’s squad has another marquee characteristic boosting the team this season — mental fortitude.

The Lady Eagles (12-5-3) went 10-0-1 from Aug. 30 to Tuesday, when the streak finally broke against a Miller team that took third place in state last year.

Hailey Gripka smashes a kill during the Lady Eagles’ game against Lockwood Thursday. Kyle Troutman/

Amber Wilson, Pierce City volleyball coach, said it’s not the play necessarily that’s leading to the win, rather, how the team has bonded.

“We’ve learned to work together as a team, and that’s been a challenge, learning to talk to one another without bringing each other down in tough games,” she said. “Mentally, we’re much stronger than we were last year, and everyone is doing their part.”

Wilson said the strength was on display against Miller this week, as the Lady Eagles rallied multiple times when down.

Lydia Hopper goes for a block during the game against Lockwood Thursday. Kyle Troutman/

“That first set we lost 18-25 after we rallied as much as we could,” she said. “Our hustle is like no other. No one gives up.”

Tough opponents, Wilson said, are her team’s bread and butter this season.

“These girls want to play good competition,” she said. “They get pumped for it and play their best against the hard teams. We had one set against Miller where we only had five unforced errors, and that’s unheard of. They like to dig out of holes and be the underdog.”

Claire Eaton serves up a point during the Lady Eagles’ win over Lockwood Thursday. Kyle Troutman/

Games against College Heights and Pleasant Hope this season are two more examples of the team’s hard-nosed play, with both games going five sets and the Lady Eagles emerging victorious.

“Those were pretty awesome games,” Wilson said. “These seniors get that kind of play out of everyone. They keep us playing smart and unselfish, leading the team because they know we’ve got this.”

That leadership is exemplified in between points, as the team has their own tactical huddles.

Jillian Mack digs a ball during Pierce City’s win over Lockwood Thursday. Kyle Troutman/

“They get into a huddle and every time they talk and fix little things,” Wilson said. “I can’t always call a timeout, and they do a great job fixing things on their own. It’s like their own timeout in between points where they talk for 2 seconds. Sometimes I have to tell them, “Let’s go,” so they don’t take too long.”

Another key to this season’s run, Wilson said, has been the individual meetings with players.

“We had meetings at the start of the season with each player to say what she needed to work on and teaching the difference between physical strength and emotional strength,” Wilson said. “We have some extra strong girls emotionally and some extra strong girls physically, so we ll have to grow and become better or one player will take the others down with them.”

Wilson said another set of meetings occurred before the Miller game, and a final set is planned before the team heads to districts.

The Lady Eagles are in a five-team district with Diamond, Marionville, Sarcoxie and Southwest. They beat Southwest 3-0 on Sept. 9, and they face Diamond on Tuesday, Marionville on Oct. 5 and Sarcoxie on Oct. 14.

Wilson said one of those contests has an asterisk in the minds of the players.

“We think Sarcoxie will take us to the district championship,” she said. “They beat College Heights and lost to Miller, and they have a similar record to us. But, I’m not worried because my girls want it so bad.

“Last year, we were nervous to play Sarcoxie, and this year, we are ready. It’s our last home game, and the girls are all really eager to play them already.”

The Class 2, District 11 Tournament starts on Oct. 21, with the No. 1 seed getting a bye.

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