CALEDONIA — Samantha Brooks’ Caledonia High School volleyball team had just completed a one-sided sweep of Tori Brooks’ Heritage Academy volleyball team, and one thought dominated mom’s mind.
“It’s awesome,” she said of coaching against her daughter.
The match certainly wasn’t, as the Cavaliers bolted to a 14-0 lead in the first set and just cruised to a 25-5, 25-13, 25-8 victory Monday night. What was awesome was the enthusiasm for teaching volleyball being passed on to the next generation.
“It’s a little bit weird, but it’s really awesome,” she reiterated. “To me, volleyball progressing in Mississippi is what I’m in it for and what I’m about. Just to see what she’s doing is incredible to watch.”
For the younger Brooks, coaching against her mother was a good experience, but to add a bit more intrigue to the plot was the fact this was Tori Brooks’ first time coaching in the gym in which she had starred in high school, playing for her mom.
“It was weird being back in here,” Tori Brooks said. “I’m familiar with this gym. I’m familiar with some of these girls. I thought it was good.”
Not so good was the Patriots’ start. After serving to open the match, Heritage Academy didn’t serve again until the Cavs had a 14-0 lead. The run was highlighted by back-to-back Lily Rose Parker kills and a couple of rockets sent over by Kaydence Suddeth that HA just could not handle.
Halfway through the onslaught, Tori Brooks called a timeout.
“Put the ball away,” she said she told her players. “We were serve-receive most of the time, so get a good pass and set it and put it away right there, and we’ll put a run together.”
That never materialized during the first set. The best the Patriots could do was back-to-back points thanks to rare consecutive errors by the Cavs that made it 22-5. But Caledonia scored one of the best points of the night on the very next play, getting out of a spot so challenging Patriots supporters began cheering prematurely before Brianna Holliman finished it. A more routine kill by Emily Clark and a Heritage attack error into the net wrapped up a 25-5 rout.
But the improvement both mother and daughter have seen in the Patriots showed up late in each of the final two sets. An early 4-1 lead quickly evaporated into an 11-5 deficit, but two three-point runs highlighted by kills from Taylor Wheeler and Elziabeth Nichols surrounding a six-point Caledonia lead kept the lead at six.
“I saw them play the very first tournament, and the progress they made … it’s just incredible to me what she’s done,” Samantha Brooks said.
“I can see the fight in them,” Tori Brooks agreed. “We had mental mistakes we need to work out, but they have great players on their team.”
Indeed they do, and they ran off six consecutive points and eventually won the set 25-13, then scored 15 of the first 16 points of the third set and were never threatened after that.
Serving was a key part of the story for Caledonia, as the Cavs gave away very few free points. They made their first 21 serves, misfired on two of their next five, then were perfect for the last 46. Karigan Elliott got the Cavs started, serving 14 in a row during the first set, Tykeasia Turner had a similar run during the third, unleashing 13 good serves in a row, including an ace.
“We have a very high serving average,” Samantha Brooks said. “We made a goal this year to be in the 80s on our serving, but we’re actually in the 90s as a team. That’s one of our strengths.”
Another is youth. Despite playing like an experienced squad, Caledonia (12-10-2) features just three seniors. And Samantha Brooks was delighted at the performance of Sudduth, Parker and Jalynn Hall on the Cavs’ senior night.
“I think with it being senior night, some of them fought just a little bit harder,” she said. “They did have a great night on the court. They’ve had a great season, and they’ve been great role models for the younger players. They’re really what this program stands for.”
Tori Brooks also found players to praise, pointing to Meg Rodgers, Lucy Sharp and Claire Shelton for their efforts, particularly on passing and serving.
The Patriots (12-10-2) already had finished region play at 7-1 and will place first or second and head to the playoffs, which begin Oct. 12.
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