OKEECHOBEE — First, the tears flowed. Then came the hits and kills and passes, and, in the end, triumph.
Those couple sentences summed up Okeechobee High School volleyball’s senior night as the Brahmans cruised past Lake Placid, 3-0, on Oct. 10, but this was more than just a successful senior night for the Brahmans.
Before the game, the team’s two seniors from the Tribe – Brienna Brockman and Mallorie Thomas – were honored during a ceremony along with senior captain Ashley Snyder.
Brockman was escorted by her mom, Stephanie Johns, and Mallorie was escorted by her mom, Amanda Julian.
The seniors made their way through an emotional line as they were greeted by their younger teammates with hugs, tears, flowers and other gifts in what was the final home match of their careers.
“I’ll miss seeing all these people every day,” said Thomas, who played three years on varsity.
Brockman said her fondest memory as a Brahman volleyball player is what she described as a team “pow wow” when the girls met in an office and sat in a circle with each taking turns in the middle saying what they like about each other.
“It brought us really close together and it made us all really tighter, not only on the court, but outside the court. We could trust each other more,” said Brockman, who also played three years on varsity.
Okeechobee coach Taylor Padrick said Brockman and Thomas have been “great teammates” with “fantastic attitudes.”
“I’ve seem major improvements in confidence and leading on the court,” said Padrick, now in her seventh year at the helm.
In regard to the confidence, Padrick said Brockman and Thomas have had tendencies to get down on themselves in matches, but this season she’s witnessed both players blossom in that area.
“That’s something we’ve really tried to work through,” Padrick said.
“Mallorie had a great game the other night because she didn’t let that happen. She showed a real maturity and she played fantastically. Every ball she touched, everything she passed was fantastic; every hit was impressive. Bri, the same thing around the net; Bri can dominate the net. When she’s on, she’s on. She can put the ball down. She’s gotten a lot better at being more consistent. She’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Thomas developed into a key member of the team, especially on defense and in serving. She had 17 service points and eight aces – both season highs – in the senior night win against Lake Placid. On Oct. 10, she generated a season-high 15 digs in a win against Sebastian River. She averaged about 5.5 digs per game and finished with more than 125 for the season.
At 5-foot-10, Brockman was one of the taller players on the team. She thrived at the net as one of top hitters and blockers. She said she won’t forget her time as an Okeechobbee player anytime soon.
“When I leave, I’m not leaving. I’m always going to be a Brahman. Once a Brahman, always a Brahman,” Brockman said. “I’m going to come and support every single one of these girls on their senior nights.”
Both players would like to continue playing volleyball in college.
Although the Okeechobee High volleyball careers of Brockman and Thomas have ended, the Tribe will still be well represented in the coming years thanks to Elle Thomas and Karey Gopher.
Both sophomores have established themselves as key contributors and will have two years of varsity experience under their belts – plus plenty of club volleyball experience – come next season.
“I have confidence in them,” Brockman said.
Okeechobee reached the Class 5A-District 12 championship game, but fell to Jensen Beach in straight sets. Brockman had six kills.
For being runner-up, Okeechobee journeyed to Merritt Island for a 5A regional quarterfinal Oct. 23.
The Brahmans season ended with a 3-0 loss. They finished with a 15-11 record.