CALEDONIA – It felt like Caledonia volleyball had already won.
With the deciding fifth set almost in hand, the school’s student section and home crowd could not contain themselves. It was the climax, and the stage was set with their team leading 14-6. A brief volley took place before Cavaliers libero Emma McKee set up Mary Beth Edmondson to crush the match point.
The students stormed the field and the celebrations began for the Cavaliers, who qualified for the MHSAA Class 4A Championship Round for the first time in club history. The match went the distance, with Caledonia winning most of the 3-2 victory over New Albany, with scores of 17-25, 25-23, 25-18, 19-25 and 15-6.
The match lived up to the hype, both upfront and in the gym. A sizable supporting crowd from both fan groups helped keep the energy high throughout the night, with chants, noisemakers, stomping and everything in between. At one point, officials stopped play and asked the Caledonia principal to remove the old-school megaphones from the student section as they were being used as percussion instruments.
The answer? A “We don’t need it!”
“It was exciting, but we expected it,” Cavaliers head coach Samantha Brooks said. “I feel like it was exciting for them to know that their peers were there to support them, but they were able to stay mentally strong and fight until the end.”
It certainly took some tenacity to play through the noise as well as the fight the visiting Bulldogs put up. Every set was hotly contested, with visiting fans making the gym feel like a New Albany home court after every Bulldogs point. It wasn’t until the very end that a clear winner emerged from both sets of competitors.
“It took a long time, but I think the noise really got us excited and gave us that motivation to really get the ball,” senior Emily Clark said of the raucous atmosphere. “I am so proud of our team. We’ve worked so hard all season just for this moment, and to finally qualify for the state championship is so good.
Clark is one of four seniors in the group, another talented group to be named Brooks’ head coach. Reaching the final stage of the journey makes for a thrilling accomplishment for both coach and players.
“I’m so proud,” Clark said, reflecting on the journey with the program and her teammates. “Every season we’ve worked so hard together, and I think we’ve played so long together, we’ve bonded and connected so well. I just think we deserve it.
His trainer agreed wholeheartedly.
“It’s amazing, and they deserve it,” Brooks said of his winning team. “It’s really been a long time coming with the amount of talent we’ve had through this program, so it’s exciting to see it come to fruition with this group.”
Volleyball is special in Caledonia, and there’s a chance to make it even more special with a banner year. The Cavaliers will get their chance in the championship game at 3 p.m. Thursday against Pass Christian at Mississippi State’s Newell-Grissom Building.
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