As a senior volleyball player at Addison, Kayla Robinson has been equally exposed to the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.
The outside hitter was a freshman in 2010 when the Bulldogs won their last of five state championships and present for each of the last two title tilts, both heart-wrenching, five-set losses to Donoho.
With this year’s Class 1A state tournament set to start Wednesday at the Birmingham CrossPlex, Robinson isn’t shy about stating which set of memories she’d rather relive.
“It drives me because I know what it’s like to win, and I know what it’s like to lose — and obviously winning is a lot better,” she said. “Plus it’s my last year, so it makes it all the more worth it.”
Addison’s other captain, Holly Posey, has been motivated by many factors in her nearly two seasons with the program. In 2011, the junior wanted to lift the championship trophy more for her senior sister, Chelsea, than she did for herself. Sure, that sense of redemption is still there for Posey, but so is the sour taste of defeat the Hawks left in her mouth almost 365 days ago.
“It just killed me last year when we lost,” she said. “It lit a fire underneath me, and I’m really ready to get a little bit of revenge.”
After the weekend, a third straight date with No. 2 Donoho (38-10) is looking like more and more of a possibility for the top-ranked Bulldogs (52-6). Addison downed Waterloo, Tharptown, No. 4 Spring Garden and No. 5 Meek for its second North Super Region title, while the Falcons fought off Fruitdale, Kinston, No. 9 Jefferson Christian and No. 3 St. Luke’s to defend their South Super Regional title.
If the Bulldogs are fortunate enough to make yet another run to the finals, there’s no one they’d rather see standing across the net than Donoho.
“I would probably be a little bit upset if somebody beat them before the championship,” Posey said.
But that dream matchup all hinges on how both squads fare in the quarterfinal and semifinal stages.
Addison will open against Winterboro (14-12), the South Super Regional’s fourth seed, Wednesday at 1 p.m. The winner will move on to face either St. Luke’s or Spring Garden at 7 p.m. for a berth in the championship match.
The Hawks will get going against No. 8 Athens Bible at 3 p.m. The victor will advance to play either Meek or Jefferson Christian at 7 p.m.
The title will be decided Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Not much about this Bulldog bunch appears to be different — at least on the surface — than it was at this point in 2012.
They were ranked No. 1 for pretty much the entire season, they downed Donoho to claim the Donoho Classic title and they blew through the field to win the North Super Regional title. Oh, and they were driven to do all that by a loss to Donoho on the highest stage the previous year.
So what really has changed for Addison?
“We’re just a year older ... and a year wiser, we hope,” said Pam Wilkins, who’s led the Bulldogs to 11 consecutive state appearances as a head coach and 12 including her first as an assistant in 2002. “I hope they’re not as intimidated as they were last year. We were a real young team, and we’re not a real old team right now because we’ve got a lot of juniors that are key players for us.”
Another difference Wilkins has noticed is the number of injuries her squad has had to overcome this season.
After avoiding the injury bug for all of 2012, the Bulldogs had to endure one early stretch without Posey, their setter, and another in the middle of the campaign without Robinson, their senior leader. Posey was sidelined with lingering knee issues, while Robinson was shelved three to four weeks with a broken foot suffered on Friday the 13th in September.
“I think it’s made them a little stronger,” Wilkins said of the adversity. “And maybe some of them are a little bit better because they had to play out of position.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.