ROXANA — Makenzie Keller looked down at her feet.
One glance was all the Roxana High junior libero needed to get her team back on track Monday evening.
On her shoe was a green ribbon, worn by all of the Shells' players. It came at the suggestion of Wade Stahlhut, father of junior outside hitter Reagen Stahlhut.
"He helps us with the mental part of our game," Keller said. "If something is not going right or the other team gets the momentum, we take a deep breath, look down at the ribbon and regain our focus — because green means go."
Roxana used that motivational tool to roll past Bunker Hill 25-11, 25-10 on the first day of pool play at the Roxana Invitational.
The Shells also swept Valmeyer, 25-11, 25-15, and Gillespie, 25-12, 25-9, in their final two matches during Day 1 of the week-long, 16-team affair, which wraps up this weekend.
Keller hopes the ribbon trick, along with some other mind games, can lift Roxana to its first tournament title in the 11-year history of the kickoff event.
"We're all human, we're going to mess up," explained Reagen Stahlhut. "This just reminds us that it's OK to make a mistake. You've got to realize that and move on from it."
Roxana veteran coach Mike McKinney likes his players to stay sharp both mentally and physically. He has the team listen to five or six minutes of soothing, relaxing music, prior to taking the court.
"It helps," he said. "It gets them to relax. Sometimes, when you look at them, it's almost like they're starting to fall asleep."
Wade Stahlhut, who also serves as the softball coach at Roxana, has long been a student of the mental aspect of the game.
McKinney, in his 31st season in the program, is happy to implement Wade's teachings and philosophies.
"It's worked so far," Keller said.
The Shells (2-0) appeared sharp in their season opener.
Reagen Stahlhut reeled off a long point streak at the service line and also led the attack against Bunker Hill with six kills. Keller anchored a solid defensive effort from the back row. Junior Macie Lucas chipped in with a couple key hits and senior Kiley Winfree set the tone early with eight successive winners.
"We were very aggressive, which I liked," McKinney said. "We had a little lull, but I was pleased for a first game."
Added Keller, "I'd give us a 'B' (for a grade). We did some good things. And found some things we need to work on."
Winfree helped her team take command of the opener with eight successive service points for a 10-1 lead. Two kills by Stahlhut highlighted the blitz.
Junior Darcey McGuire kept the roll going with a pair of points before Stahlhut added a tip and kill to push the lead to 22-8.
Lucas finished the opener with a well-placed shot between a trio of defenders.
Bunker Hill bolted out to a 5-2 lead in the nightcap behind the hitting of sophomore Makenna Wilkinson.
That's when Keller decided it was time to take a deep breath and look downward.
"We needed something and that got us back going again," Keller said.
Stahlhut reeled off 10 successive service points and Lucas added a kill to put the hosts up 15-6.
Junior Olivia Mouser ended the match with a nifty block off a serve from Winfree.
The Shells are hoping to ride the opening day blitz into Saturday's title match at 2 p.m.
"Winning this tournament is something coach has been talking a lot about," Reagen Stahlhut said. "We really want it."
Bunker Hill displayed a few strong spurts, especially at the net.
"We just couldn't get into any rhythm," Minutemaids coach Sara Burnet said. "They had us playing defense most of the match."