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Caledonia volleyball players excel at Ridgeland tournament

 

From left: Caledonia High School volleyball players Ansley Brown, Bailie Cross, and Maddy Suggs pose with the trophy the team won Saturday for finishing first in the Silver Division of the Ridgeland Set It Off Challenge.

From left: Caledonia High School volleyball players Ansley Brown, Bailie Cross, and Maddy Suggs pose with the trophy the team won Saturday for finishing first in the Silver Division of the Ridgeland Set It Off Challenge. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

CALEDONIA -- If given the final vote, Samantha Brooks would have to go with Ansley Brown.  

 

After hearing Brooks' choice, Maddy Suggs raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth in the shape of an O in mock surprise. Deep down, though, Suggs, a sophomore, wasn't surprised because she knows her classmate Brown is the loudest one of the Caledonia High School volleyball team. 

 

With Brown and Suggs on the court together, Caledonia is fortunate to have two players who love to be loud. Factor in the experience of Bailie Cross and Brooks' Lady Confederates have a back row that makes them downright scrappy. 

 

"Our defense is really good this year," Brooks said. "The girls have really jelled in the back row." 

 

The play of Caledonia's back row played an integral part in the team winning the Silver Division in the Ridgeland Set It Off Challenge. On Friday, Caledonia defeated South Panola 25-16, 25-15. It lost to Alcorn Central 25-20, 27-25. On Saturday, Caledonia beat Hillcrest 25-6, 25-11, defeated Corinth 25-14, 25-19, and beat Alcorn Central 25-21, 25-19. 

 

For its accomplishment, the Caledonia High volleyball team is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week. 

 

Cross, a senior, led Caledonia (5-2) with 38 digs for the tournament, while Suggs had 30. Claudia Garcia (11) was the other player with double figure digs. Camryn Johnson had 43 assists, while Tori Brooks (25), Kennedy Lambert (12), and Lizzie Truelock (11) paced the team in kills. Cross (17) and Brooks (13) led the team in aces. The balanced approach pushed Caledonia to its second-straight Silver Division title at the event. 

 

Suggs, a 5-foot-2 libero, or designated defensive player, said the entire team communicates well, even if everyone isn't as loud as she is or as loud as Brown. 

 

"We all understand each other and know the capabilities of each other, so we can all be loud and take responsibility for what is ours," Suggs said. "(Being loud) makes it so much easier because you never have to question if someone else is going to take the ball." 

 

Brooks said Cross and Brown bring experience from their club teams, while Suggs, who plays softball at the school, complements her teammates with her athleticism and her willingness to talk on the court. Brooks also said Suggs can read where a setter is going with the ball and a hitter's body language to help put her in better position to make a play on a kill attempt. 

 

"She can get to a lot of balls because she is so quick and athletic," Brooks said. 

 

But it all comes back to Brown, who Brooks said is "so loud." In fact, she has come to tell her players "to be loud like Ansley" to convey the importance of communication on the court. 

 

Brown and Suggs enjoy the back and forth to see who can be the loudest. They see their dueling vocals as a way to make the team stronger -- scrappier, if you will -- rather than a competition between two friends. 

 

"I just talk a lot anyway, so when I get on the court it is even better," said Brown, who is 5-4. "They talk a lot, so we all kind of bounce off each other. If someone is having a bad day, we help each other out. If anybody on the team is being quiet and we are being loud, it spreads. Everything you do in volleyball spreads around the court." 

 

Brooks said the competitiveness of the back-row players has fueled the team's fast start as the offense continues to mature. She likes the fact that the players take pride in playing defense. Brooks said that mentality is necessary because the team doesn't have a lot of size to slow down attacking players at the net. 

 

"It is so awesome when you can get a dig off someone who hits the ball so hard," said Brooks, who played volleyball at the Mississippi University for Women. "That is such a big deal when you have somebody hitting the floor and making a really good pass off a really good hit. 

 

"All three of them can read well. Maddy is super at it. It is like she can see it before it happens." 

 

Brooks said the back-row players will improve as the team's blockers learn to transition from the net to defense quicker. As that process continues, Brown, Cross, and Suggs will keep being loud and setting the tone by hitting the floor to frustrate opponents. 

 

"I think all of us really enjoy defense," said Cross, who is 5-4. "Of course our height made us go into playing defense first, but we are all really into it. I think us playing in the back row together is super great because we are all friends on and off the court. We all have really great communication and we know how not to get mad at each other and we can all talk it out."  

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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