The competition was tough.
Camdenton met Willard on the volleyball court in district semifinal action Tuesday night in Lebanon hoping to earn their spot in the district championship game, but the Tigers proved too large an obstacle to overcome as the eventual district champs defeated the Lakers in straight sets 25-8 and 25-18.
“Willard is good,” Camdenton coach Austin Walker simply put. “We knew coming into this game that their offense was going to be super fast. We played them once before and had taken a set off of them, but knew that we had to come in serving and swinging aggressive... They hit the ball well, their setters are great and they play phenomenal defense.”
Indeed, the Tigers looked sharp from the start as they took the lead in the first set after both sides were tied at 2 and proceeded to extend that lead to as many as 17 points before ending game one on a 23-6 run.
After that first set, Walker said the team had two choices. One was to accept defeat and wrap up another year or put up a fight and give it everything they had. The Lakers decided to fight and despite Willard going on an 8-0 run midway through set two, Camdenton battled their way back with a 7-2 run of their own and managed to chop an 8-point deficit in half. Unfortunately the Lakers could not close the rest of the gap, but Walker was certainly proud of her team’s efforts.
“Switching sides I thought there was going to be two responses. We were going to come out here and fight and say we are better than that or we are going to roll over and I’m very proud of the girls for fighting back in game two,” Walker stated. “At one point we hit four balls out of bounds and against teams like that you cannot do that and win, but I was very proud of our response.”
Senior Jordan Wolfe paced Camdenton’s attack with six kills on the night while senior Daphne Dinsdale, sophomore Natalie Basham and senior Bailey McElyea all had three and junior Abbie Miller added two. Miller also had a team-leading seven assists while Dinsdale recorded three of her own before the night was over.
Perhaps one of the most telling signs of how well Willard was able to execute their attack was that the Lakers, who usually are a force above the net recording multiple blocks, had just one block on the night from Dinsdale. Wolfe is usually one of those prominent blockers as well and actually ended up leading the team in digs with a total of seven. Senior Tegan Shockley did her part to try and keep Willard at bay as well as she finished with five digs and both Dinsdale and senior Blair Kurtz added four while Miller put up two.
It was the final game for six Camdenton seniors in Dinsdale, McElyea, Wolfe, Shockley, Kurtz and Mariah Hadfield and Walker said their presence on the court will certainly be missed.
“They are a super special group to me,” the coach noted. “In that last timeout I called they said, ‘We are not going down like this. We are going to fight tooth and nail so let’s go for it.’ We are going to miss their intensity, their talk and their drive. We are just going to miss those girls and what they have done for our program.”
Overall, Walker was pretty pleased in general about a season that saw the team go 17-12-4 and was especially glad to see the Lakers playing some of their best volleyball in October heading into district play. There is also reason to be excited about the players who will return in Basham and Miller as well as players like Sara McDuffey, Kylie Meier and Grace Wormek who all made significant contributions of their own in 2016.
“Our season starts tomorrow for next year,” Walker said after the season-ending loss. “We have a lot of younger girls who are super talented too so it is honestly just finding the right mix... We are ready, we are excited for it and have a big opportunity for next year.”
Time will soon tell if Camdenton will make the most of that opportunity when they return to the court in 2017.