By James Howey
Despite witnessing one of their key players in Anna Bell go down with a knee injury, and a furious comeback by Highland to make the score 25–24 Cavaliers in the third set, the Cavs defeated Highland 3–0, claiming the win and the District championship, earning them a trip to nationals in Phoenix, Arizona.
For head volleyball coach Jennifer Ei. this trip means a lot after a year’s absence from nationals.
“I think a lot of times, when you go a lot, you take it for granted,” Ei said. “I’m just really happy for this group and the effort they put in.”
At the beginning of the day, things were not looking as good for the Cavs as they found themselves in a dogfight with Neosho and down in the third set 24–18, staring a 2–1 uphill battle in the face.
“I felt like Neosho played really well and we were a little bit slow, but they played incredible,” Ei said. “The girls finally put it together and realized ‘Hey, this is to play in the district final. We need to step it up.’”
The squad came back and won the third set 27–25 and dominated the last set to defeat Neosho 3–1. Neosho proved the Cavs’ toughest opponent through the tournament, as they carried the momentum of their win into the final to defeat Highland 3–0 to close out districts. Ultimately, Coach Ei attributes the win to the depth and the shared effort of everyone on the team.
“I think they just wanted it, and it’s good to see this group wanting something,” Ei said. “I thought the setters did a great job of moving the ball around. A lot of people had attacks, kills and it wasn’t just one dominant hitter.”
Emotions ran high after the District victory; it was a goal the team had in mind all season.
“It was really emotional. I know we all started crying because it was what we worked for all season,” Cavaliers libero Tori Kerr said. “When it’s actually a for sure, you can’t kind of believe it.”
The Cavs were selected to be the number-three seed at nationals and will play 14-seeded Muskegon on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m. The Cavs have seen and beaten a number of opponents in the tournament, so that should pay dividends should they run into one of those teams again. Unfortunately, the Cavs will be without middle Anna Bell for the tournament, but look for the Cavs to make up for the loss with the depth they have had all year.
This season marks the 10-year anniversary of the last volleyball national title here at the college, so another win would be quite the celebration for the Cavs.
“I know it’s something we’ve all dreamed of doing,” Kerr said. “I think it would mean more than any of us could really describe, honestly.”