History of Rolla Athletics

Brandon Kirchner, Sports Editor

The town of Rolla dates back to 1858 when the state of Missouri recognized Rolla as a town in its borders. Rolla High School came to fruition in 1921 with the foundation of the public school system within the town. With the foundation of Rolla High School nearing one hundred years, it is no surprise that Rolla boasts a long history in the athletics department, featuring many conference, district and even state awards from the many sports Rolla High School operates.

The current athletic conference that Rolla is a part of is the Ozark Conference, featuring many different schools in the Ozark area such as nearby Waynesville High School, Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri and Camdenton High School on the Lake of the Ozarks. However, Rolla was not always a part of the Ozark Conference, previously being a member of the Mid-Missouri Conference with Lebanon, Waynesville and Sedalia being fellow members of the conference.

One of the more successful programs in the past decade has been the boys and girls soccer program. With the boys winning the Ozark Conference four different times, 2002, 2012, 2013 and 2016, they also have a winning percentage of 74.7% since 2002. The girls won the Ozark conference seven different times, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2014, 2016 and 2017, they also have a winning percentage of 86.2%. However, that is not telling the full story of the dominance the Rolla soccer team has had since the turn of the millennium. The Rolla Soccer team also boasts sixty-nine all state athletes, three all-region and one all-american athlete, with one Missouri state player of the year, two Missouri offensive players of the year and one Missouri defensive player of the year.

Head coach of both soccer teams Mike Howard has been coaching here at Rolla for almost three decades. With a long successful history established with the team it is important to remember how he got to this point.

“I was fortunate that when I took over the boys program in 1991 it was only a year old and I started the girls program in 1995. So I was able to create a culture that I wanted and didn’t have to change a pre-existing one. Players make mistakes, All I’ve ever asked is that they play hard and they play smart. And then toughness is a key trait for us, both physical and mental. The biggest part of all of that is talent. If you don’t have it, it will be real hard to be successful. We have had some great players over the years, several have gone on to have great college careers,” Howard said.

Another very successful program in the past decade has been the boys and girls Tennis teams, with one conference championship and multiple top-five finishes. Coach Joe Schisler has built a very successful program considering the resources at hand.

“On average, tennis is a regular top five for both boys and girls which is quite good considering only West Plains has a smaller student body to work with. We are also located the furthest away from the USTA Cooper Tennis Complex which has 12 indoor courts, 18 outdoor courts, and tennis professionals available year round,” Schisler said.

With limited facilities the Tennis team faces an uphill battle against teams with much better courts and opportunities at their disposal., however that does not stop them from consistently competing quite well in conference and district play.

The girls volleyball team the past few seasons had quite some success with multiple top-five finishes in the Ozark conference. That is much to thank to the relatively new coach Stephanie Pritchett who has revived the program with a youthful team.

“Well although new right now, not new to coaching or coaching here. I coached from 1992-1994 at Jasper HS and West Plains HS, then 1996-2003, 2005 here at Rolla before taking a break for a new career in Nursing. My aim now is much the same as then, to teach kids the sport at a high level, but to have fun while doing it, there isn’t much worth if you enjoy it. However, we will and do work very hard in both skill areas and conditioning to be able to compete at the level we want and need in our very tough Ozark Conference. When it all comes down to it though, I can teach kids how to do things right all day long, but it takes good athletes and good kids to latch on, work hard, and do it. I hope that in the next few years, our athletic ability will be high. Regardless, we can learn the game at a high enough level to continue to have winning seasons,” Pritchett said.

This past seasons the girls brought a conference title and a district championship back home to Rolla with their win over Owensville. However the team has always not been so dominant, having many up and down years since the foundation of the girls team. Relatively new coach Luke Floyd has started reviving this team and hopes to continue to succeed with building a dominant program.

“Up to this year, we have spent a lot of time and effort building our program. First we had to get interest in our program. My first year here we had 13 girls in our entire program. We worked to build our JH program and try to keep those girls playing basketball as they moved to the HS. After the first of the year last season, we started playing really good basketball, making it to the District Championship game. Even though we lost, that experience and confidence gained laid the foundation for this season. We have a great balance of upper and lower class men and they all get along extremely well. Going forward, we have to continue to promote our program and maintain interest. Hopefully having a winning season will help with that, but we have to continue to promote our program. I try to be involved with the youth leagues, and we try to take our team away in the summer to not only play basketball, but bond as a team. We understand that we have to continue to work every day to make our program better,” Floyd said.