Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nothing lasts forever though sometimes it seems like it does and oftentimes feels like it should...

...and there is my longest post title ever.

Calumet Christian volleyball over the last four or five years exudes a certain sense of inevitability. Pretty much with the exception of Lafayette Central Catholic's tournament until this year and a few scattered regular season games, CCS wins. The sense becomes that because they have won, they will always win. Past becomes prologue and all that. So when they don't, when they don't win a tournament that they have won the last three years, it is a shock. I find myself shaking my head when thinking about what happened yesterday, as if to clear my mind of a thought, an impression that isn't quite right, not exactly accurate.

Yet there it is. CCS lost in a championship game.

Even when the Patriots were squeaking by Crossroads in the championship game of our tournament, or when we have to go to a second match to defeat Carroll Christian in the D1 championship at NACA, I each time had such a sense of inevitability that the Melinda would again be wondering to whom to give the trophy.

The strange thing about yesterday was that the girls were barely tested through the first seven sets that they played, including the first set against Kankakee Valley in the championship match. The most points they gave up to that point was seventeen. The average score was 25-13.3. They even led 14-9 in the second set against KV. Then the wheels came off. Let me quickly summarize how we got there.

There's not much creativity at KV, apparently. Same nine teams as last year. Same format. And ridiculously, the same teams in our pool as last year - Gavit and Hebron. Gavit was our first opponent and went down about as easily as they did at the Argos tournament. It was early, so our girls struggled to start, but at 12-10 the strung six points together to open up a comfortable lead which they turned into a 25-15 win. And as they have done may times already this year, after struggling early in game one, they opened up a big lead and then maintained it though the end of the 25-14 set two victory.

After a long break during which we enjoyed delicious chicken tacos (thank you Lisa!) we wandered over to the "auxiliary gym" - amazing what you can build when you have the power to tax. Hebron, former KV tournament opponent and future regular season opponent was our second pool play opponent. We have never had much trouble with them. We still have not had much trouble. Hebron did not make a lot of errors; the Patriots made almost none. There was no lull; the girls pushed the lead out to ten and then scored the last six to close out the 25-9 win. Game two was a mirror-image, as they scored the last four to close out the set and match win, 25-10.

Reseeding ensued, with the first place teams placed in one pool, out of which the champion would be determined. Griffith was the first opponent in the new pool configuration. We played Griffith last two years ago in this tournament when Griffith had a star player and were pretty good. They don't have that player anymore. They aren't very good. Better than Hebron, but not much. When Mandi scored her fourth ace, CCS led 8-0. Griffith called a time out after a "bump kill" by Ally (yes, that's for you Nathalie if you still read these) that made it 9-3. It didn't help. Calumet cruised to a  25-13 game one win. We got sloppy in the early part of game and Griffith picked up their offense. All that meant was that the game was close. The Patriots never trailed after going out in front 6-5, but the lead was only one several times and was only 17-15 when the girls took control. They served long, Faith got a kill, they fumbled a return, then Mandi and Faith stuff-blocked a kill attempt. Griffith scratched out a couple more points, but that was it and CCS was in the championship game.

Against KV. Again. For the fourth time in a row, it was KV vs. CCS for the championship of the KV invitational, as KV had also defeated Griffith. Each championship game had been competitive; the last two years the match went to three games. Each time, however, the host team always seemed to fold when the pressure was on. This year, they had a new coach, and I think that made a big difference. Strangely, the match started with one of the most one-sided sets between these two teams. Two kills by Ally and two kills by Mandi mixed in with KV hitting one into the net made a 5-4 game a 10-4 one. A series of dinks dropped for the Patriots and when KV hit one wide, the lead was up to 18-8. CCS maintained that lead and after the two teams exchanged serving errors, KV hit one long and the Patriots took game one handily, 25-15. There were no big runs in the second game, but the Patriots led early. KV caught up at 7, but the girls regained control. Faith put one down to give CCS that 14-9 lead. KV then scored five of the next six to pull within one. Calumet got the next two with a kill by Ally and a hitting error by KV, but KV followed this with two kills and an ace and tied it up. KV's two big hitters then strung together several hits that we could neither handle at the net nor the back line to lead by three. KV then served into the net and Faith and Ally and both got kills to tie it at 22. Two big blocks by KV ensued to put them on the brink and they didn't waste time, finishing us off with a big kill.

On to game three, where we beat KV the last two years (the first year was a two-game sweep). KV picked up where they left off, with several big hits. One of them came after what might have been the longest volley of the year in which we were involved, with big saves and digs by both teams. KV lead 5-2 when Ally strung together two kills and then teamed with Lauren to stuff a kill attempt to tie it up. Their #21, perhaps the best player we've seen this year (not on our team, of course). crushed one to break the tie. She and Ally traded kills, the teams traded errors and and then Faith scored on a solo block to tie it at 8. We hit one long, they stuffed us and then they dropped a serve right into the middle of the defense that no one could get a hand on. 11-8. Faith then book-ended kills around kill by KV to pull the Patriots to within 12-10. A Patriot hitting error was followed by a kill by Ally, but then they put one down to get to championship point. Ally delayed that for a moment with another kill, but just for a moment. KV scored with one more kill. We got a block on it but the ball fell on our side and that was it. KV had won for the first time in their own tournament since we have been attending. To use a phrase this Cubs fan knows very well, Wait 'til next year.

I was out of town this past weekend, so I wasn't able to attend the big matches on Friday and Saturday. Congrats to the girls for pulling out a big win against the two-time defending national homeschool champs, Crossroads Crusaders!!. It was a shame that the only place Lake Central could squeeze in a match against us into their schedule was at 10AM on the day after this match, but Coach has been trying to get them on our schedule and was not going to turn the opportunity, even if it wasn't an ideal time. It was tough to lose, but hopefully the Patriots can turn things around when they travel down to DeMotte on Tuesday to play Covenant Christian.

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