Carlie Rodgers had plenty of reasons to call it a day.
With an NCAA Division I scholarship already locked up, the Lindbergh High senior could've spent the rest of the day on the trainer's table when she rolled her ankle in a Visitation Tournament semifinal last August.
But Rodgers’ devotion to her team trumped any attempt at self-preservation.
“My team, I saw them all just looking at me and I couldn’t give up on them,” Rodgers said. “I needed to keep fighting. It may just be high school for some people, but that’s been my family for the past four years and they are just as valuable to me as my club team. I wouldn’t back down on them.”
Rodgers taped up the ankle and pressed on, helping lead the Flyers to the championship match. Lindbergh fell short of winning the title, but Rodgers’ leadership wasn’t lost on her teammates and coach Robert Langevin.
“It doesn’t enter her mind, hey my ankle’s bad, hey I don’t think this team isn’t going to go as far as I need it to, maybe I should slow it down a little,” Langevin said. “Carlie said tape it up and let’s go and that’s huge.
“Her ankle, when you look at the video, she went over far enough where a normal kid might say I’m going to call it a day here. But it was the semifinal and she wanted to win and she wanted to finish.”
That drive and passion is what helped turn Rodgers into one of the area’s best liberos. It is also what convinced St. Louis University to offer her and two of her High Performance club teammates — Jillian Mattingly and Emily Henken — scholarships.
Rodgers officially became a Billiken by signing her letter of intent last week.
“There were many reasons why SLU appealed to me,” Rodgers said. “It was close to home. It had a very welcoming coaching staff and players when I first went there and I have a huge support system with family and friends staying in St. Louis, and it also provided great academic and education qualities.”
Rodgers grew up in a volleyball family. Langevin’s wife played with Carlie's mother, Stacie, 25 years ago and her father, Mike, also plays. Rodgers’ older sister, Makenzie, also played for Lindbergh.
“I know what kind of parents Stacie and Mike are, and Carlie and Makenzie grew up in a house where sports and a desire to win is inbred,” Langevin said. “It’s not about, hey, let’s go have fun. It’s about, hey, let's go have fun, but let’s get the W.”
Rodgers’ love of the game and team-first attitude started at home. She credits all of her success to her family.
“My parents always taught me leadership above all,” Rodgers said. “If you don’t have a good attitude, you can be the best player in America but you won’t go far. They always pushed me to get extra reps and be the best player I can. Anytime I’d ask for extra reps, they’d drop what they were doing.”
That team-first mentality was apparent when Rodgers walked through the door as a freshman.
Langevin said he considered putting Rodgers on the varsity squad as a freshman but decided it would be better for her and the program to have her develop an extra year on the freshmen team. Not only did Rodgers embrace the decision with a good attitude, she moved from libero to middle hitter and led the Flyers to a 24-0 record.
“I wasn’t that (upset) about it because it was a great season and it was a lot of fun because I got to play with those girls for four years,” Rodgers said. “I feel if I would have gotten on varsity or even JV my first year, I wouldn’t have created the same bonds with them.”
Rodgers got to enjoy one of her favorite experiences in the sport as a sophomore libero for Lindbergh's varsity squad. That season, Rodgers played alongside her sister Makenzie, who was a senior at the time.
Due to injuries and circumstances her junior year, Lindbergh needed help at outside hitter. The 5-foot-7 Rodgers didn’t hesitate in making the move.
“Hitting for Lindbergh was just such a great opportunity for me because I haven’t been able to hit since I stopped growing at 11,” Rodgers said. “The team was super supportive of me and they would give me tips and pointers.”
She stayed at outside for her senior season at Lindbergh, guiding the Flyers to a 25-7 record.
“Is she 6-2? Is she going to give us a kill every time? No she’s not,” Langevin said. “But I know she’s going to go high hand. I know she’s going to go high, hard and deep. I know she’s going to keep the ball in play. And I know that she’s going to play the off-block defensive position better than anyone else we had.”
Rodgers also took Lindbergh’s talented freshman outside hitter Sophie Carlson under her wing.
“We made sure they were together all the time,” Langevin said. “Her ability to lead and set an example not only on the court but in practice, setting the nets up, cheering on the freshman and JV, it makes it easy as a coach.”
Though she’s moving on, Rodgers hopes she passed down her team-first mentality to the younger Flyers.
“You put your team before yourself,” Rodgers said. “It’s such a team sport and I would do whatever to help the team.”