It's no secret Addison has been pining for another shot at Donoho with the Class 1A state volleyball championship on the line.
As soon as the top-ranked Bulldogs put the finishing touches on a three-set thrashing of No. 4 Sacred Heart to earn their spot in the title tilt, the entire squad quickly packed up their gear and hustled across the Birmingham Crossplex floor to catch the last set of the Falcons' semifinal versus Lynn. Moments later, the girls watched on as No. 2 Donoho wrapped up its own three-set victory, cementing a highly anticipated rematch of last year's final.
For Kayla Robinson, one of several Addison players on the court for the Bulldogs' five-set heartbreaker to the Falcons in 2011's championship match, the opportunity for redemption has been a long time coming.
“We've been waiting all year,” she said. “We're ready. We're pretty pumped about it, too.”
Despite losing four seniors to graduation for the second season in a row and penciling in only two — Stora Gilliland and Chelsea Posey — on the roster for the 2012 campaign, coach Pam Wilkins once again found a way to get a mostly new cast of characters to buy into Addison's big-girl brand of volleyball.
Donoho might've gotten the best of last year's Addison squad, but Gilliland expects the Falcons to have their hands full with the Bulldogs' latest bunch.
“We've been waiting all year to get with them again,” she said. “We've got a lot of new players and a brand new team. I can't wait to play them.”
Before Addison could look ahead to the title match, which will be played today at 9 a.m., it first had to get past No. 10 Akron and the fourth-ranked Cardinals.
Neither opponent stood a chance, as the Bulldogs throttled the Rams 25-6, 25-5, 25-12 and later crushed Sacred Heart 25-7, 25-9, 25-12.
Gilliland and Posey led by example in the opening match. Gilliland, the team's libero (defensive specialist), came up with 16 digs, while Posey displayed her power with eight kills.
“Our two seniors played solid today,” Wilkins said. “They're truly our leaders, both of them.”
Robinson matched Posey's kill total, and Jessy Taylor pitched in with five aces and four kills. Holly Posey contributed 26 assists.
During the latter portion of Addison's lengthy break between matches, many of the girls took to their side of the court, playing various volleyball-related games, keeping the mood light and acting “silly,” as Wilkins chose to describe it.
That was an accurate word for the coach to use before her team's semifinal versus Sacred Heart, but it certainly didn't stick once the match got going. The Bulldogs were all business from beginning to end, owning the service line and dominating at the net to easily dispatch the Cardinals.
“I know we're the youngest 1A team left, but I'm proud they're able to get on the court and focus when they need to,” Wilkins said. “They may be silly all over the place but when you put them on the court, they step up. I like that about them.”
Chelsea Posey was rock solid once again with 20 digs and six kills, while Gilliland piped in with 10 digs. Robinson was deadly as an outside hitter with 10 kills, Holly Posey dished out 22 assists and Taylor wowed at the service stripe with eight aces.
“Jessy is very athletic, and she serves really well,” Wilkins said. “When Jessy gets in rhythm, she's good. She helped us a lot.”
Addison bested the Falcons at the annual Donoho Classic earlier this year to take over the top spot in the state's 1A ranking, which gives Gilliland an added boost of confidence going into today's battle.
“If we play our game, I think we can win because we've beat them before and all we have to do is do it again,” the senior said.
Gilliland's coach didn't make a victory sound so easy for the
Bulldogs. Wilkins said her squad will have to be flawless, play to its full potential and avoid mental errors if they hope to head back home with the state championship trophy.
“I think everybody know that you've got to bring your best tomorrow,” she said. “We're not going to be able to play real nervous and young, which is the part that worries me because we are young. We'll see how that goes.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.