MOUNT CARMEL -- Tears were plentiful and emotions were high as five Mount Carmel volleyball seniors took the court for one last match at the Hilltop on Monday night.
The program hosted its annual Senior Night event to recognize its five seniors, Addie Drone, Kassidy Drone, Madeline Goldman, Madi Merritt and Jessica Wall. It wasn't just the five seniors who were emotional and reminiscent, but their parents and teammates as well, who all had to say farewell to such a group of highly accomplished and personable seniors.
At the very least, they were able to build one last memory at the Hilltop by sweeping Lawrenceville in straight sets (25-18, 25-9) to send them off in victorious fashion.
After the festivities prior to the match concluded, the match commenced. Out of the gate it seemed as if the emotion and joyous celebration of the moment had gotten the best of the Lady Aces (15-5), who came out sluggish.
The Indians (3-24) raced ahead to a 6-1 lead, prompting a timeout by Mount Carmel Head Coach Kelsey Beckerman, one that was rather short and sweet. Her message was pretty simple, the festivities are over, we have to wake up, put the nerves behind us.
"Obviously we've beat Lawrenceville before so we knew that was hopefully going to be the case again, but you can't ever take things for granted and I think that first set was just a little slower than we like to come out and play," Beckerman said. "I think that talking with some of the girls, they were just a little nervous. I think the whole, what the night means for them and this chapter, just put a little bit of a close on it."
They did just that though and started to get back into a flow. For much of the first set it was closer than it really should have been, but Mount Carmel used a couple runs to secure the 25-18 set victory.
Between the sets, Beckerman told her team that if this was their final home match, they needed to make it in exemplary fashion.
Her message seemed to sink in, as the second set bared more resemblance to the quality team that the Lady Aces are. Already having amassed a 12-7 lead, the Lady Aces would compile an 11-1 run to run away with the set.
Mount Carmel exhibited some strong play over the course of the run, including four consecutive aces by junior Allie McPherson, a couple kills by junior McKenna Golden and McPherson, a fantastic lunging dig by senior Kassidy Drone and an ace by senior Jessica Wall.
Once it was match point, Beckerman elected to give her seniors one last moment to be honored. She pulled each of the seniors except Addie Drone, allowing each of them to get one standing ovation from an adoring Mount Carmel crowd. One of the substitutions included subbing sophomore Kenley Drone for her sister, senior Kassidy Drone in what was an emotional sequence.
Beckerman allowed Addie Drone to remain in the match because she rarely gets to serve. Don't worry, she got a celebration of her own upon the final point, immediately turning and embracing McPherson in glee.
"They needed that moment," Beckerman said. "Not only to be honored at the beginning but to be honored coming off the court. Addie's one who doesn't typically get to serve so we left her out there to serve. She did a great job serving tonight and I wasn't going to take that away from her. Yeah, she should have been able to come off too, but we wanted her to be able to be in the position she was tonight to be able to serve the ball at the end. It was a good moment all of the way around."
McPherson led the Lady Aces in aces (four), kills (10) and tied for the lead in digs (10). Kassidy Drone assisted a team-high 22 times, Golden recorded a block and Addie Drone tied McPherson's team-high with 10 digs.
This group will be a tough one to replace. They haven't just had a successful season, they've changed the perception and the fortune of Mount Carmel volleyball. It's been a long time since the Lady Aces have had a season like this and it's help preparing the underclassmen for endeavors of their own in the future.
"I told them in the locker room, [the underclassmen] want to be you," Beckerman said. "You set a standard for this program and you've shown what hard work does and it pays off. To have young girls -- we advertised tonight to invite some of our campers. I saw a few little blue shirts in the stands, but that's what it's about, making the sport of volleyball, bringing it back to the town and making it fun for all ages and this group's certainly done that. This group's fun to watch because they get excited when we do things well, they love volleyball so the goal for them is to just bring it to the underclassmen and they have."
The clock's officially reached midnight on their home matches in their career, but far from over on their careers. They still have two regular season matches, beginning on Tuesday (Oct. 15) against Grayville, then on Oct. 22 against Red Hill, as well as the Edwards County tournament this weekend, Oct. 19. If they can pull off a successful week, they could complete their regular season with an unprecedented 20-win season.
After that, it's postseason volleyball and Beckerman says this group's excited to be chasing history. One chapter has ended, but as Beckerman explained -- how the story ends is in their hands.
'We have Hamilton County then for our Regional, it's at Hamilton County, on their court, but we want to make some noise," Beckerman said. "We will get to see them play, we might play them at the Edwards County Tournament, but we'll get to watch them and scope out some things they do. These girls want it though, they want a postseason win, and not just a postseason win, the postseason win. In the locker room I told them, 'This is the end of our chapter, but it's not the end of our book. We're still writing it.'"
L -- 18 9
MC -- 25 25
Aces: McPherson (4), Wall (3), A. Drone (2).
Kills: McPherson (10), Goldman (7), Golden (5), York (4), Hannah (1), A. Drone (1).
Assists: Ka. Drone (22), Merritt (3), Ke. Drone (1), York (1).
Blocks: Golden (1).
Digs: A. Drone (10), McPherson (10), Ka. Drone (8), Hannah (6), Merritt (2), Goldman (2), Wall (2).