September 11, 2009 9:46:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- With go-to player Jameika Hoskins slowed by a knee injury, senior Sommer Burnett picked up the slack and led the host Aberdeen High School volleyball team to a 3-1 win against Caledonia here Thursday evening.
Burnett, who also is the sister of Aberdeen High coach Marquis Burnett, turned in an outstanding performance in a matchup of unbeaten (4-0) division rivals.
"Sommer has been playing volleyball since the eighth grade," said Marquis Burnett, who was 0-12 when he started with this same group of girls several years ago. "She was the first player here who was able to jump serve, and it has been a huge weapon for us ever since."
Burnett''s serving ability, coupled with three crucial tips in the fourth and final set, paved the way for Aberdeen''s four-set (21-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-23) victory.
"Because she''s not a big hitter, she picks up a lot of points on tips, and those three in the fourth set were instrumental in our comeback win," Burnett said.
Up 2-1 in sets, but down 20-14 in the fourth set, Aberdeen pulled to 21-18 with a 4-1 run thanks to a pair of Burnett tips sandwiched around a Mattie Scarbrough dink shot.
Moments later, the Lady Bulldogs evened the score at 23 on another Burnett dump, a net call on Caledonia, and a kill by Hoskins. They then scored the final two points to cap the six-point rally.
Caledonia coach Samantha Brooks'' worst pregame fear came true in the loss, which dropped her squad into second place in the division standings.
With her team sporting an 8-1 record, Brooks said she was wary of facing the Lady Bulldogs in what she called the Lady Confederates'' biggest competitor in the division.
"Aberdeen beat us last year and they are a scrappy team that somehow manages to find a way to beat us," Brooks said.
Brooks, who is in her third year at Caledonia High, looked on in dismay as her team fell behind 16-10 in the first set, but the Lady Confederates rallied to post a 25-21 win and take the lead in the best-of-five format.
In the second set, Aberdeen scored 11 consecutive points to break open a close 10-9 contest. Helped by Scarbrough''s superlative play at the net, Burnett handled the serving chores flawlessly as Aberdeen bolted to a 21-9 advantage.
The Lady Bulldogs then never trailed in winning the third set. Caledonia made a late run to go from a 20-12 deficit to trail 23-19, but Aberdeen scored the final two points to take a 2-1 match lead.
The final set was a nip-and-tuck affair early on, but Caledonia took a 19-13 lead. Aberdeen rallied behind the play of Burnett, Scarbrough, and Hoskins (who had three kills down the stretch).
"With Hoskins not at 100 percent, several players stepped up their game tonight, and our win was truly a team effort," said Burnett, who used a simple 1-2-3 lesson in his pregame talk to his players. "I''m a math teacher, and I told my team we finished third in a tournament in Jackson to start the year, second in the Tupelo Tournament a couple of weeks ago. That leaves the number 1, and that''s where we want to be when the division tournament begins."
While Burnett was pleased with Aberdeen''s win, Brooks felt her team didn''t play to its potential.
"We were weak in areas where we had been strong in the past, particularly serving, and we didn''t free-ball pass very well either," said Brooks, who praised the play of Marlana Dolan, Ashley Dodson, and Shaina Cruse. "We weren''t ourselves tonight. We are a much better team than we showed."