October 8, 2009 10:24:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
It''s all about the attitude for the Caledonia High School volleyball team.
Defending a 30-foot section of court with six players doesn''t sound like a difficult proposition.
But if the players don''t know the details that go into playing each position it''s likely they won''t be able to work as a unit.
Caledonia High School coach Samantha Brooks has encouraged her players to learn about all of the positions by putting them in different spots and mixing up her lineups.
Instead of a hodgepodge of errant passes and missed swings, the Lady Confederates have clicked as a team and are on the verge of making it to the Final Four.
"Their attitude toward playing a different position has been integral to our wins," Brooks said. "They have taken it to another level."
Caledonia will try to take it even higher at 6:30 tonight when it plays host to Lafayette in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class I state tournament.
Caledonia (12-4) earned the opportunity to play at home Saturday thanks to a 3-2 victory against St. Joseph''s in the first round. Set scores were 25-21, 15-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-7.
The match against Lafayette was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but Brooks said the Lafayette coach had a scheduling conflict that couldn''t be changed.
Brooks said Caledonia has kept its season alive, in part, because its players "have been very open to trying new things." She said the players realized at the beginning of the year that this season could be special. As a result, the players have focused on and talked about "team" all year.
Against St. Joseph''s, Kara Von Kanel led Caledonia with 10 kills and three blocks, but the Lady Confederates'' success this season has been about more than one player.
In fact, junior Marlana Dolan and senior Kori Hankins said one of the team''s sayings this season is "teamwork makes the dream work."
The "dream" for Caledonia would be to win tonight to get a chance to play Center Hill at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Mississippi College in Final Four.
The Lady Confederates are one step away from that goal thanks to an all-around effort Saturday that featured contributions from Macy Hicks (one kill), Hankins (one ace), Ashley Dodson (two kills), Whitney Pounders (two aces), Dolan (two kills, five aces), Blaire Ruth (three kills, two aces), Sunnie Rushing (one kill, one ace, one block), and Shaina Cruse (two aces, 17 assists).
"Attitude is a big part of winning," said Hankins, a senior, who played libero last season. "The last two games (against St. Joseph''s) we never got our heads down once. We screamed, hollered, and cheered after every little thing, which is we did what we did and why we got up 11-1 (in the fifth set) and why we won."
The players'' attitudes also have helped them adjust to positions changes throughout the season. Dolan and Hankins said they trust Brooks, who played volleyball at Mississippi University for Women, and that she knows where they can best help the team.
On Saturday, Caledonia used a key position change to rally past St. Joseph''s. Brooks said a suggestion by her assistant coach to move Hankins to the right side in the fourth and fifth games played a key role in the victory.
"She always makes us try the positions," said Hankins, who saw a lot of playing time in the back row on the left side. "When I started playing right side against St. Joseph''s I was kind of hesitant about it and I almost didn''t believe in myself because I hadn''t played right side in all of my five years. But we know (when Brooks makes a position change) she is doing what will help the team and that she has a reason for putting us in another position."
In addition to changing positions at a key juncture, Hankins said she is the "loud mouth" of the team who keeps her teammates excited and pumped up.
Dolan, a junior, also has had to adjust.
Last year, she saw most of her playing time in an offense that featured two setters. This year, the Lady Confederates have went to a one-setter system (Cruse) and Dolan has seen nearly all of her action as a back-row player who anchors the defense.
"It is definitely a good change," Dolan said. "It started out kind of crazy but it all came together."
Dolan feels her passing has played a key role in helping Caledonia run an offense. She also prides herself on being quick and aggressive so the Lady Confederates can limit the number of balls that hit the floor.
And whether it is Dolan or Hankins or Von Kanel or Rushing, the players have adjusted to new roles because they have remained focused on the team''s goals.
"Over the season we have become a whole team and not just individuals playing our positions," Dolan said. "Coach Brooks played a lot of people in different positions to help them get a sense of how they play and that has helped us become a team."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.