Prep volleyball playoffs: Caledonia comes up one comeback short in five-set heartbreaker against Corinth

 

Theo DeRosa

 

 

CALEDONIA -- Caledonia volleyball had plenty of comebacks in it during Saturday's MHSAA Class 4A second-round playoff match against Corinth.

 

But it didn't have enough.

 

Despite roaring back from a 2-0 deficit by winning the third and fourth sets, Caledonia dropped the fifth and was eliminated in an intense postseason battle Saturday in Caledonia. Set scores were 25-15, 25-23, 20-25, 10-25 and 15-12.

 

 

"It's sad, and it's hard," Caledonia coach Samantha Brooks said. "We certainly didn't expect to lose."

 

Nobody on Caledonia's side of the court or the gym seemed to expect it, either, after a fantastic comeback evened the match at two sets apiece. Caledonia held off Corinth 25-20 in the third and dominated the fourth for a 25-10 win.

 

Brooks said that after falling behind 2-0, she applied her team's situation to what it might face in the real world in the years to come.

 

"In life, you don't give up," Brooks said. "Things are going to get thrown at you that are out of your control. ... It's just important to keep fighting as we did here."

 

But as soon as Caledonia tied things up, first-year Corinth coach Emma Heubi delivered a message to her disheartened players, whose body language sent a clear message of frustration as the fourth set drew to a close.

 

"I told them that they have to dig deep, and this is where you see what you're made of," Heubi said. "I said, 'This is where you fight, because this is where it counts, so go out there and show them what Corinth volleyball is.'"

 

The Warriors showed it. They won the first three points of the first-to-15 fifth set and led by two or more the whole way through, closing out the set and moving on when Caledonia's Libby McMurphey misfired on a shot.

 

"I'm so thankful for the heart that my girls had to fight back and to push back especially when there's an obstacle they had to get over," Heubi said.

 

It wasn't the first time. Like Caledonia, Corinth graduated a large senior class, and Heubi, who previously coached in Texas, wasn't sure what her first Warriors roster was going to look like. Corinth was also forced to quarantine on two separate occasions because of COVID-19, throwing the Warriors' season into disarray and forcing postponements and cancellations.

 

But Heubi's team pushed through when it counted Saturday. On 13-11 in the fifth set, "stud" senior Kate Nakagawa unleashed a powerful kill, and the Warriors finished off the win two points later and got revenge on Caledonia, which knocked Corinth out of the playoffs last year.

 

The win over the Warriors sent Caledonia to the state semifinals for the first time in school history, and Brooks and her team had designs on meeting or exceeding that goal this season.

 

"Well, we ultimately wanted to continue to advance, but I'm very proud of them," Brooks said. "Like I told them, too, 'We could have been a team that didn't have a season or whose season ended short.'"

 

It certainly could have ended two sets shorter than it did Saturday. Caledonia looked off-kilter in the first set, which Corinth won easily, and made many of the same self-inflicted mistakes in a close second set.

 

"That killed us," Brooks said. "It's not that they did anything specific; it was just that we made so many of our own errors -- unforced errors especially."

 

The errors proved especially costly when Caledonia regrouped to win the third and fourth sets, Brooks said. She and her players knew the match had already been theirs for the taking, and they'd missed their chance.

 

"Just based on the way they played, they knew they should have taken the first and second sets," Brooks said. "In the fifth set, we shouldn't have let our guard down."

 

Still, she was happy to be able to send off the team's six seniors -- McMurphey, Zoe Hansen, Alexa Lindsey, Megan Chandler, Kordelia Bergstrom and Ella Clark -- the right way. After seeing her daughter Tori and the Caledonia softball team hardly get in much of a senior season before the pandemic intervened, Brooks was glad for what her volleyball players went through together.

 

"Ultimately," Brooks told her players after the match, "thank God we have these experiences and we have these memories and that COVID didn't shut that down."

 

New Hope 3, Center Hill 2

 

NEW HOPE -- New Hope volleyball pulled off a comeback of its own Saturday evening to advance to the MHSAA Class 5A north state championship game.

 

The Trojans dropped the first and third sets against defending Class 5A champion Center Hill but rebounded to win the fourth and fifth sets and win the match 3-2.

 

Set scores were 13-25, 25-15, 20-25, 25-20 and 15-12.

 

Daylyn Nettles had 23 kills for New Hope, Micaela Hudgins had 10, and Madyson McBrayer had seven.

 

Annie Woolbright had 16 assists, and Marlee Davis had 11.

 

Kensley Woolbright had 39 digs to lead New Hope, and Hudgins had five assists.

 

New Hope will host Lake Cormorant in Tuesday's semifinal game.

 

 

Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.

 

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