After a month off the court rehabbing an ankle injury, Shelby Bradley came back last Thursday and helped spark the Trojans to a Senior Night victory.
Bradley was the Trojans starting setter before injuring her ankle during warm-ups of the Trojans home tournament on Sept. 22. The team had a nine-day layoff since its last match, which allowed Bradley to return to action.
She started the Trojans final regular season match as they returned to their 6-2 offense that they ran early in the season. Bradley's presence and an overpowering STC offense boosted the Trojans past Benton Community in three-straight sets.
South Tama senior Shelby Bradley (No. 1) sets to senior Jade Rohach during last Thursday’s regular season finale. Bradley returned to action after missing a month with an injured ankle. She helped the Trojans sweep Benton in three sets.
"It felt amazing," Bradley said. "I seriously cried tears of happiness as I pulled in to school today. It was awesome coming here and knowing I'd be playing this time.
"It feels like it was my very first game of the season," she said. "It was great to get the sweep, especially against Benton. I've never liked Benton. It's a rivalry for us seniors."
Bradley's mother and head coach felt the same way about sweeping the Bobcats.
"That feels good, especially when we play Benton," coach Michelle Bradley said. "Benton and us have had a rivalry for a long time, at least in my eyes and I think in the girls' eyes, too."
South Tama came out playing strong in the first set, trying to put the Bobcats away early in the match. Senior Jade Rohach recorded two kills to help give STC a 3-1 lead. She added an ace after a kill from junior Paige Van Dyk as STC led 7-4.
Benton kept the set close for a few more points. It was 9-7 before S. Bradley served five-consecutive points. She served one ace during that stretch, while junior Trisha Walz hit two kills. Walz later served five points as she was aided by two kills from junior Emily Martin. South Tama cruised to a first set victory, 25-11.
The Trojans carried their momentum into the second set as they built a 5-0 lead behind Holtz's serving. She served one ace, while Rohach and Walz had kills during the first five points. The Trojans led 12-4 before Benton rallied and closed the lead to three at 14-11. Both squads struggled serving during the set, but the Trojans broke away with a 4-0 run that was sparked by kills from Van Dyk and Rohach and an ace from Martin. The Trojans won the set 25-19.
Benton kept the third set tight and led several times during the set. It was a one-point difference or tied for much of the set until Benton led 18-16. South Tama quickly rallied, scoring nine of the final 10 points. Holtz and Walz hit the last two kills on Benton passes that came to the net. Holtz and Walz jumped and spiked the ball on the final two points, ending the set 25-19 and the match in three sets.
"The girls came out on fire in the first set," coach Bradley said. "They had me a little worried in the third set, but they pulled it off with key serves and took care of it.
"It was nice to have Shelby back," she added. "She didn't get to play all the way around, like she normally does. But just having her enthusiasm on the court and being senior night is special."
Thursday's match was the final regular season contest at home for three STC seniors. Riley Craun, Rohach and S. Bradley were honored with their parents before the varsity match. Instead of speaking about each girl, coach Bradley wrote a letter to the seniors that she read aloud during the Senior Night ceremony.
"I've coached this group in middle school, AAU volleyball and now at this level," Bradley said. "This is only my second year as varsity coach, but I think they've come a long way. I will definitely miss them next year."