Weskan rallies to make semis
Published on -10/28/2012, 7:46 PM
By CONOR NICHOLL
All season, the Weskan High School volleyball team has dealt with sickness and injuries. Last week, the Coyotes finally had a healthy team for the first time and advanced to the Class 1A, Division II state tournament.
Weskan defeated Wilson 26-24, 25-12 and then lost to Argonia, 25-20, 25-20 in its first two matches. To secure a spot in Saturday's semifinals, Weskan needed to beat LeRoy-Southern Coffey County in its final match Friday afternoon at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
At 3-2 in the first set, though, 6-foot-1 junior Kelsey Hale, one of two Coyotes taller than 5-8 and arguably the team's top offensive player, limped off with an ankle injury when she stepped on another player's foot. It was the first time she missed time with an injury this year.
"It was really kind of stressful for me," Hale said.
At first, Hale thought she had broken the ankle. She eventually walked off the pain on the sideline and re-entered midway through the first set. Hale improved her health as the match progressed, and led by a big night from sophomore Robyn See, Weskan eventually won 22-25, 25-17, 25-23. Hale barely felt any pain after the victory.
"I think when we started winning and realizing that if we didn't win, then we would not make it to tomorrow, then I kind of just forgot about it and just played," Hale said.
The victory moved Weskan into the final four for the first time since 2010. The Coyotes have reached state five straight years, but have lost in pool play the other three occasions. Weskan, the tournament's No. 6 seed, moved to 28-13 and finished as runner-up in its pool to No. 2 seed Argonia.
"When Kelsey went down, it was like, 'Girls, we have this,' and they were relaxed," coach Morgan Welsh said.
The 5-foot-4 See continually hit around and at Southern Coffey County's 6-foot junior middle blocker Breanna Isch. See finished the match with five straight kills.
Helped by a big vertical leap, she delivered huge swings that went off Isch's hands and also hit some open angles for kills.
"I just kind of went with how my body was," See said. "Each time before I went up, I was just saying, 'Dear Lord, please help me,' and He did. He got me through. This year has been the only year that I have actually been able to get up there and finally be able to hit it down."
Two years ago, Weskan all-state outside hitter/setter Jori Mote suffered an ankle injury at state, and the Coyotes finished fourth.
"We weren't prepared for it," Welsh said. "She was out. She tried to come back in and we had to pull her right back out."
At the beginning of the year, Weskan didn't play its best after the injuries started occurring.
"Some girl went out, they were kind of like, 'Oh, I feel bad for her, so I am going to play like, 'I feel sorry for you,' type of thing," Welsh said. "Not like, I am going to step up."
Now, the Coyotes are an experienced group playing without a healthy lineup. Still, Weskan was a little shaken at first from Hale's injury. Freshman McKenna Hale, at 5-8, entered in her sister's place.
"When she went down, her sister got scared, because her sister is a freshman," Welsh said. "We never practiced (Kelsey) getting hurt, but we did practice injuries and being like, 'Don't give up.' As scary as it was, they did it."
A trainer wrapped Hale's ankle on the bench and she gingerly walked up and down the sideline.
"At first, I was a little panicked, and then I knew if I acted like I was panicking for my team, that it would throw us all off," See said. "So I knew I had to be strong for my team and bring us all back together, and just have confidence that we could do it."
Hale became more motivated as she tried to improve and watched the match. Southern Coffey County, which went 0-3 in pool play and finished 16-20 this year, led virtually all first set, but Weskan kept it close. With Hale not at 100 percent, Weskan bounced back to win the second set.
"I had to be out there for my team, so I was definitely hoping to get back into the game," Hale said.
"I don't feel like I am the main player, but when I went out, I realized that I really do a lot for my team, so to see them just pick it up and play without me, it really meant a lot."
Weskan trailed 23-20 after a Southern Coffey County kill and a Coyote error. However, See finished the match with her flurry of kills.
"I was telling her, 'You've got to hit angles,' and then she started hitting angles," Hale said.
"She really made up for what I couldn't do."