NBA star Grant Hill may have said it best in a soft-drink commercial. "Image is nothing," Hill said. "Thirst is everything."
Unfortunately for the Brainerd Warriors volleyball team the Rocori Spartans appeared to be a little more thirsty, winning a Central Lakes Conference matchup 15-9, 15-5, 15-2 Thursday at the Brainerd High School.
The image that game programs portrayed was that of a senior-laden Warriors team facing a Spartans team dominated by juniors. Rocori has only four seniors on its 15-player roster. Of the 10 girls on the Brainerd roster nine are seniors. What the program didn't indicate was that only two of those Brainerd seniors, Lisa Renneke and Annie Zauhar, are the Warriors' only returning starters.
After a hard-fought first game Brainerd seemed in awe of the young but eager Spartans squad.
"We got close to them and we even had the lead but I think we were too overwhelmed," said Zauhar, a senior co-captain. "Then, all-of-a-sudden, we started losing, we got too excited and it went down hill from there."
As the Warriors' spirits diminished so did their offense. Brainerd started off with nine points in an intense 20-minute first game but finished with just two points in the last game that was over before it started.
"We've worked harder to side-out the ball, then when we get the ball we don't seem to push as hard to get the point," said Warriors assistant coach Carla Stall, who was filling in for head coach Heidi Hahn, who was in Florida due to a family emergency. "We have long matches because we're siding-out all the time and we don't get the points.
"Our scores don't really indicate the caliber of the game."
When the Warriors had control of the serve they found trouble keeping control, whether it was trouble on the serve or getting any kind of attack past the Spartans' blockers.
Rocori was led by junior setter Lindy Sparby's perfect sets to dominating senior Kari Torgerson who had little trouble finding the floor on Brainerd's side of the net.
Brainerd had trouble establishing any kind of momentum as fundamentals and communication broke down early and often.
"We are too quiet on the court," said Zauhar. "We're a different group than last year. We don't have the talk and we don't seem to help each other on defense when we get down."
Brainerd looked to be getting back into the contest as Sara Swanson's serving put the Warriors into a 4-2 lead early in the second game but then the momentum switched and Brainerd never regained it.
Lisa Renneke led the Warriors with seven kills followed by Annie Zauhar's four. Zauhar also had four blocks.
Swanson had 25 set assists and was 11-for-11 serving.
"We lasted about a game and half on our initial, get out and play the game," Stall said. "Then we seemed to get frustrated and when you're frustrated the basics don't go well. When your basics go then you just fall apart.
"Communication is a big hurdle for us right now. We're not doing that very well. When we're not communicating our game falls off."
Lisa Renneke 6-7 serving, 1 ace, 7 kills
Kristen Terrio 2-2 serving, 1 kill
Jessica Arns 1-1 serving
Erin Schellin 1-2 serving
Sara Swanson 11-11 serving, 25 set assists
Lisa Gorron 3-4 serving
Annie Zauhar 10-11 serving, 4 kills, 4 blocks
Jessie Pohlkamp 7-8 serving, 2 kills
Natalie Dunphy 3-3 serving, 3 kills
Conference -- B 0-3. Overall -- B 0-3. Next match -- Brainerd at Little Falls 7:30 p.m. Monday.
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