Since 1982, the vast majority of volleyball players at St. Maries High School have played on state championship teams.
Along with seven of her eight teammates, Bridgette O’Dwyer can be counted among the minority.
She started as a sophomore when the Lumberjacks finished runner-up, two years after St. Maries’ string of 10 straight state titles was snapped.
She’d like her name associated with the team that moved St. Maries back to the top of the State A-2 ranks.
O’Dwyer was being weaned off a bottle when St. Maries won its first state title in 1982. She was in kindergarten when the Lumberjacks won the second of what would be 10 consecutive crowns in ‘85.
She knows what it’s like to play in a state title match. But she wants to experience the euphoria so many others before her have in winning state.
Her dream almost ended two weeks ago in a match against Sandpoint. She awkwardly jumped to block and came down on a Sandpoint player’s foot and sprained her ankle.
She missed three matches, but aggressive therapy coupled with an attitude that refused to acknowledge the pain helped O’Dwyer return a week later. She returned for one practice and played the next night.
In the first match back last week, O’Dwyer had 10 kills and two blocks as St. Maries clinched its 17th consecutive Intermountain League title in a 15-7, 15-3 win over Priest River. Two nights later, O’Dwyer put up seven kills and six blocks as the Lumberjacks claimed the league title in a 15-1, 15-13 win over Bonners Ferry.
She’s averaging seven kills, second behind outside hitter Kim Reid. Her hitting efficiency (tops on the team) and blocking (about four per match) are the contributions most critical for St. Maries.
At 5-foot-10, O’Dwyer’s the tallest player on a short team. “When she was out we didn’t have a block,” St. Maries coach Mitch Santos said.
Sitting on the bench recovering from the injury gave O’Dwyer a greater appreciation for her team, especially senior teammates Reid, Reid’s cousin, Amy, and setter Alicia Adams.
“They really played well while I was gone,” O’Dwyer said. “But there’s another level we can go to. I haven’t played as well as I can and we haven’t played as well as we can as a team.”
O’Dwyer, who received the second-most votes for all-league last year, is the likely pick for league MVP this season.
Santos credits O’Dwyer’s improvement to maturity in many areas.
“She’s increased the variety of her shots this year,” Santos said. “She wasn’t a natural volleyball player. Things haven’t come easy for her. She’s really had to work at it.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo