Eagles, 23-7, win league outright for first time in 4 years
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
The Brentwood High School volleyball team is back. Last week the Eagles won the South Central AA Conference outright for the first time in four years. Their quick victory over Valley Park on Oct. 10 put the ribbon on a season in which they dominated league opponents — they went 10-0, beating all five teams twice, in two sets each time.
“It feels real good,” said senior Emily Connor, “because we’re going to get our name on the banner in the gym now.”
Not that BHS has been far from the South Central’s top rung in recent years. After winning it outright in 2010, they took second in 2011, third in 2012 and tied for first in 2013.
“Last year we were co-champs and now we’re champs all on our own,” said senior Lauren Macy. “It’s also cool to be 10-0 in conference.”
On Monday, three days after Valley Park, they ended their regular season with a two-set victory over Maplewood-Richmond Heights. That sends them into next week’s postseason district tournament with a record of 23-7, the best the program has had in at least five years.
Seniors at the rudder
There’s no mystery to Brentwood’s success this season. Most of the team’s five seniors — Danni Coates, Connor, Lydia Dorenbusch, Aliah Erby and Macy — grew up playing volleyball together on Catholic Youth Council teams.
“We’ve played together for so long,” said Dorenbusch. “I’ve played with Danni and Lauren since third grade. It’s cool to play together as seniors and have such a good year.”
With so much history, every girl knows her role. Macy, the Libero, is the defensive specialist and communicator. Dorenbusch is the team’s best setter. Coates and Connor are outside hitters.
Said Connor, “Playing together last year we got a feel for being a team.”
Said Coates, “We all just gelled this season. We have a group of seniors who are really close so there are a bunch of leaders on the team.”
“We’re a pretty tight-knit bunch for the most part,” said head coach Whitney Ralph. “We’re supportive on the floor and we try not to nitpick each other. We’re just kind of close — it’s cool.”
Perhaps because most of the Eagles have played together for so long, they seem to have fun on the court.
“Oh, it’s a bunch of comedians,” said Coates. “Everyone is so funny on our team. People think Ralph looks mean and grumpy at first but she’s actually not mean.”
The Eagles also do well at not panicking when they fall behind. On Oct. 13 in front of a loud MRH crowd, they trailed 21-20 in the second set before scoring five points in a row to win the match.
“It’s a game of runs,” said Coates. “The other team gets a run and you have to get your team together and side out. But sometimes it’s tough to do, especially when they’re winning so many points in a row. It’s all about your attitude; if you have a bad attitude and think you’re going to mess up, then you will.”
Coach Ralph is especially happy with how Emily Connor is playing on the front row. Though Connor grew up here and played CYC volleyball, she attended another high school as a sophomore. But she was back at BHS last fall and the Eagles have benefited from her aggressive style.
“Emily has been really consistent for us,” said Ralph. “Pretty much you can always count on her. She’s the kind of person who wants the ball and isn’t afraid to get that set on game point or serve at game point.”
Another key ingredient to the Eagles, besides the big senior class, is its only freshman. The 5-foot-10 Caroline Snare is a welcome addition to a volleyball program that has lacked tall hitters in recent years. She and fellow inside hitter Kate Gilmore complement one another.
“And then there’s Caroline Snare,” said Coates. “She’s amazing.”
Caroline’s sister Olivia was on the last BHS team to win the conference outright, in 2010. After Olivia played her last game in 2011, she said she thought good things were coming for Brentwood volleyball.
“I’m going to come back and watch them,” she said. “And my sister Caroline is in sixth grade now and I look forward to seeing her play during her freshmen year when Danni Coates, who’s a freshman now, is a senior.”
Those days have arrived.
District dry spell
It remains to be seen whether this year’s BHS team becomes the first to win the district in four years. They’re seeded first in the Class 2 District 4 tournament next week. They have a first-round bye and will play either Hancock or Valley Park at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at Principia. If they win that match they’ll be in the championship.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said head coach Whitney Ralph. “I feel like we’ve been pretty consistent. I think we’re peaking at the right time so that’s good going into postseason play.”
BHS 2014 Varsity Roster
Seniors: Danni Coates, Emily Connor, Lydia Dorenbusch, Aliah Erby, Lauren Macy
Juniors: Kate Gilmore, Emma Holmes, Claudia Jones, Yumi Sasaki
Freshmen: Caroline Snare
Class 2 District 4 tournament seeding
1. Brentwood, 23-7 overall
2. Principia, 10-11
3. Maplewood-Richmond Heights, 8-11-2
4. Hancock, 7-15-2
5. Valley Park, 4-20-1
6. Carnahan, 4-9-1
7. Cleveland NJROTC, 4-12
2014 Brentwood Results and Schedule
Final regular season record: 23-7
Beat MRH 25-16, 26-24
Beat Gateway Science 25-5, 25-2
Beat Lutheran North 25-21, 20-25, 25-22
Lost to Affton 25-13, 25-13
Lost to Clayton 22-25, 25-17, 25-19
Beat Jennings 25-3, 25-8
Beat Hancock 25-4, 25-18
Brentwood Invitational, 2nd place:
Lost to Bayless 25-14, 25-22
Beat Miller Career 25-12, 25-9
Beat Lutheran North 25-17, 25-21
Beat North County Christian 25-15, 25-9
Beat Lutheran North 25-21, 25-20
Lost to Bayless 25-19, 25-21
Beat Bayless 25-21, 25-17
Lost to John F. Kennedy 25-17, 26-24
Beat Crossroads 25-18, 25-13
Beat Valley Park 25-16, 25-7
Beat Principia 27-25, 20-25, 25-19
Crossroads Tournament, 2nd place
Beat Miller Career Academy 25-12, 25-9
Beat Metro 25-17, 25-14
Beat Crossroads 25-14, 25-14
Beat Hancock 25-14, 25-12
Beat Crossroads 25-20, 25-17
Lost to Bayless 19-25, 25-21, 25-23
Beat Hancock 25-10, 25-11
Beat Bayless 28-26, 25-22
Beat Crossroads 25-12, 25-18
Lost to Orchard Farm 15-25, 25-21, 25-11
Beat Valley Park 25-10, 25-17
Beat Maplewood 25-19, 25-21
District tournament at Principia
Oct. 21: BHS vs. Hancock or Valley Park, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 22: Championship match, 5 p.m.