Lady Bears devour competition

By Brigitte Zumaya
Sports & Opinion Editor

Photos by Nicholas Bostick and Ravin Lee | The Lady Bears celebrate after winning the 2014 Metro Athletic Conference championship game.
Photos by Nicholas Bostick and Ravin Lee | The Lady Bears celebrate after winning the 2014 Metro Athletic Conference championship game.

The Lady Bears’ pumping adrenaline and clenched hands were evidence of how intense the Metro Athletic Conference semifinal game was. The team was hungry to play in the volleyball championship game. During the semifinals, the first game was Brookhaven College vs. Eastfield College. The winner would play against the winner of the second game, which was North Lake College vs. Richland College. Both games were played in the late afternoon Oct. 24 at Brookhaven.

“My energy for this team comes from the people from my team. Everybody is really easygoing and really excited to always play, like myself,” outside hitter Chelsea James, #5, said. On the volleyball court, it was the Lady Bears’ turn to serve while Brookhaven supporters in the stands growled: “I believe we will win. I believe will we win.”

Then middle blocker Samantha Eaton, #12, jumped high as her teammates got into defensive positions. Her hand connected with the ball and sent it careening into enemy territory. The crowd went wild, and teammates yelled in excitement, jumping up with raised hands. That energy showed on the court as the Lady Bears won the match with the score of 3 sets to 0.

Middle blocker Samantha Eaton launches for a jump serve during the championship game.
Middle blocker Samantha Eaton launches for a jump serve during the championship game.

The win meant they earned a place in the finals. Richland won the game against North Lake, so the teams playing in the Oct. 25 finals were set. “It’s a team sport, so if somebody doesn’t pull their weight it definitely shows, on the court and off the court,” defensive player Mathis Popelsky, #7, said.

The Brookhaven volleyball team was 3-15 during preseason matches. “Even though we got our [butts] kicked quite a lot, we are fighting though it,” Jason Hopkins, Brookhaven head volleyball coach, said. The starting game of the conference was Brookhaven against North Lake on Sept. 15. “After looking at the other teams in our conference, I feel like [North Lake] was probably our biggest competition, and it was a good game,” Hopkins said.

After being beaten so many times during preseason, the Lady Bears and Hopkins stuck it out. They fulfilled their potential to play in the championship game. “Beat ‘em bust ‘em, that’s our custom,” Hopkins said. “When we fight, we fight to win.” The match against Richland started off with a confident Brookhaven squad that quickly took action, winning the first set 25-21.

Outside hitter Kelsey Rogers cocks her arm back to score a kill against the Richland College Thunderducks during the second set of the game.

The Thunderducks seemed to suffer from their slow start and only scored 10 points in the second set, while middle blockers Kim Parker, #13, and Eaton scored several thunderous kills. However, as the two teams returned to their respective sidelines, the tides began to turn.

The Lady Bears appeared to let their guard slip sometime before the third set began. While Richland coach Zelda Smith gave her team a rousing speech, Hopkins stared into a clipboard. The Thunderducks did not appear to be giving up easily.

The third set started off neck and neck, with both teams trading the lead for the first half. However, the Richland team quickly took a four-point lead toward the end of the set: 18-22. Some of the Lady Bears looked shocked by the sudden reversal of fate. “You’re going to have to earn it,” one Richland fan shouted as the Thunderducks took their first set, 19-25. The Lady Bears fared similarly in the fourth set as well, despite both sides making fault after fault.

Photo by Ravin Lee | The Lady Bears and the Eastfield College Lady Harvesters offer handshakes in a show of sportsmanship during the semifinal match.

Parker made several impressive points and even broke a 12-12 tie with a mere tap of the ball, and outside hitter Kelsey Rogers, #6, made a very impressive kill, ending a lengthy volley. However, the jovial demeanor of the Lady Bears was long gone after the second set as Richland won the fourth set, 20-25.

The roar of the Richland crowd could be heard throughout T Building heading into the final set. But the Lady Bears were no longer hibernating. The action was frantic as the Lady Bears quickly racked up a four-point lead against the Thunderducks, who hit several balls out in the frenzy. The end of the set was a near blur, with the Lady Bears scoring point after point, ending with a sevenpoint lead over Richland, 14-7.

As the final serve was launched, Eaton took position. After a few tense sets on both sides, she saw her opportunity and dashed the hopes of the rowdy Richland crowd, scoring the game-winning point, 15-7. The Lady Bears piled on top of Eaton in celebration of becoming the 2014 MAC Champions.

The women will head to Rochester, Minnesota, for the NJCAA National Volleyball Championship tournament Nov. 13 through 15.