October 9, 2009 9:16:00 AM
CALEDONIA -- Caledonia High School volleyball coach Samantha Brooks came to the school three years ago and got attached to a group of sophomores.
When the Lady Confederates saw their season come to an end Thursday night in the second round of the Mississippi High School Association Class I State tournament, Brooks had a right to be a little emotional.
Brooks hated to see the careers of seniors Shaina Cruse, Kori Hankins, Stephanie Hopper, Whitney Pounders, Sunnie Rushing, and Kara Von Kanel end in a 3-1 loss to Lafayette, but Brooks was proud they went out after a run deep into the playoffs.
"This is the year we knew we were going to do something," Brooks said. "We built up to this. We worked hard from the summer league all of the way until now. We played weekends, learned a lot, and played as a team. We accomplished many goals."
After the visiting Lady Commodores took the first set 25-23, the Lady Confederates evened the match with a 25-21 win in the second set. Lafayette captured the next two sets 25-23 and 25-21.
Von Kanel said Caledonia (12-5) was pumped for the match, but lost a little bit of an edge when the Lady Commodores took a 2-1 lead.
"When you lose a game it''s hard (to recover)," Von Kanel said. "I thought we left everything on the court and gave it everything we had. It stinks that it''s over, but I thought we did well."
Von Kanel, who led the Lady Confederates with 21 kills and four aces, hopes to continue her volleyball career in college. Brooks said Von Kanel did a good job of turning "bad setups into kills."
Lafayette coach Rachel Wenzel said Von Kanel did a good job of keeping Caledonia in the match.
"She was their offensive weapon," Wenzel said. "She carries their team in that department. She has a great court presence and a great personality. She was fun to watch. It was great for our hitters because she did some things we show our hitters every single day in practice."
After Caledonia won the second set, it jumped out to a 20-12 lead in the third on a kill by Rushing.
The Lady Commodores outscored their host 13-3 down the stretch to overcome the deficit.
Lafayette used that momentum to also take the fourth set and the match.
Brooks thought the Lady Confederates experienced mental and emotional fatigue in the fourth set and Wenzel''s squad took advantage.
"They love giving that team effort and going after it," Wenzel said. "We''ve done that numerous times this year. I never lost faith and they never lost faith. I put it back in their hands and they fought for every single point."
When Lafayette went down by eight points in the third set, Wenzel said they "just had to weather the storm."
She called a couple of timeouts in the set to encourage her team.
"They had to make the decision to play," Wenzel said. "I told them, ''I believe in you,'' but you''ve got to believe it, too."
Senior Whitney Williams took Wenzel''s words to heart and didn''t want her high school career to end Thursday night.
"It wasn''t over and we still had a chance until the last point," Williams said. "Coach has been telling us to go hard for everything. She''s been on me about being aggressive and going hard. That''s when I''m best."
Williams scored the winning point of the third set and continued to register kills in the fourth set.
Wenzel said the season has been about a team effort for the Lady Commodores, but Williams stepped up against the Lady Confederates.
"Whitney was our key," Wenzel said. "Sometimes we have other players contribute a little bit more and it worked out (Thursday) she was more effective against (Caledonia)."
Lafayette (17-10) moves on to the Final Four against Center Hill at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Mississippi College.
Wenzel can''t imagine a tougher situation to get a win than the one her team had to endure Thursday night.
"That was rough, and they had a good number of fans here," Wenzel said. "They were loud and it was a tough atmosphere to play in. It was a fun team to play against and we were very evenly matched."
Von Kanel, who went from junior varsity to being a key performer in the second round of the state playoffs, believes the future is bright for the Lady Confederates and doesn''t want them to lose hope.
"Hopefully, next year they will get there," Von Kanel said. "It will take a lot of hard work, but I think they can do it."
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