October 12, 2012 11:33:28 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
CALEDONIA -- Caledonia High School volleyball coach Samantha Brooks knew her team was in for a fight to advance to the third round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class I playoffs.
Even when Caledonia easily won the first two sets, Brooks knew the Lady Confederates' job wasn't close to completed.
"We've talked a lot this season about being what we call 'team extreme,' which means when it's going good, we're unstoppable," Brooks said. "On the other side, when things are going bad, we feel like sometimes we can't win a point. We had to figure out a way today to deal with adversity, and that is what I'm most proud of tonight."
Caledonia (23-4) regrouped from a slip in the middle of the match to defeat Lafayette 25-18, 25-15, 17-25, 13-25, 15-11. The victory pushed Caledonia to a match against Corinth at 11 a.m. Saturday at Caledonia High.
The victory was especially sweet because Lafayette ended Caledonia's seasons in 2010 and 2009.
Middle hitters Sarah Freeman and Elisha Collins helped the Lady Confederates regain the momentum after the fast start. The duo combined for three aces, five kills, and a block in the final set.
"The momentum had shifted and that was just obvious," Brooks said. "We can debate a lot of reasons as to why it happened, but we needed veterans to step up and show leadership. That happened tonight."
Freeman, who led all players with 16 kills, got the final point, and Brooks was convinced it was a telling moment for her program because Freeman was the only senior on the floor. Cara Hopper, the team's other senior, broke the fifth metatarsal in her right foot and was on crutches on the sidelines.
"I think our setter had that in mind that Sarah needed to finish the match because she's the physical and emotional leader of this group," Brooks said.
In the past three years, Caledonia had failed to advance past the second round. Brooks said the five-set drama in their gym would be a valuable teaching point going forward as they face Corinth on Saturday in the North Half semifinals.
"We needed this competition to move forward," Brooks said. "It was critical for us to be challenged and evaluate how we reacted to this competition. We'll learn from this while still getting to play."
Lafayette used the outside hitting of junior Rae Drewrey (seven kills, five aces, block) in the final three sets to rally. A stretch of five aces led to six straight points and helped Lafayette turn a 14-9 lead in the fourth set into a 19-9 advantage.
"I got on them a little bit after the second set," Lafayette coach Aimee Scribner said. "They weren't mentally prepared from the start, and quite frankly, that's my fault as a coach."
Scribner said her team's lack of communication put it into an early hole.
"I couldn't be more proud of my team for not packing it in after being down two sets," Scribner said. "We have many leaders in that locker room, and they showed up on the road when their season was on the line. I really thought there was a moment we put the pressure on Caledonia."
Caledonia used its height advantage, particularly in the middle with Collins, to shut down Lafayette's outside hitting. Collins finished with 11 kills, three aces, two blocks, and a dig.
In the final set, the teams swapped the lead three times and were tied five times before Caledonia won four of the final five points.