Calera volleyball headed to sub-state round for first time ever

Calera High School outside hitter Katelyn Dean worried if her high school volleyball career would amount to anything after toiling through losing season after losing season.

Everything changed when coach Amanda Heaton took over the program before the 2008 season. Dean, the only senior on the Eagles’ roster, saw light at the end of the tunnel and a chance to leave her mark on the Calera volleyball program. Postseason success suddenly became a reasonable goal, Dean said.

“Over the years, I didn’t think so,” Dean said. “But when I saw how well this team worked together, I thought it was a possibility.”

The possibility became a reality Saturday afternoon at Calera High School as the Eagles defeated Ramsay in the regional tournament quarterfinals, which sealed a spot in the Class 4A sub-state round Oct. 22. Calera fell to Alabama Christian Academy in the semifinals before taking down Elmore County in the consolation match to secure third place.

Calera will travel to St. James in Montgomery for the Class 4A sub-state round Oct. 22.

A’Kia Harris, an eighth-grader, finished with nine kills and five digs as Calera defeated Ramsay 25-23, 25-16, 25-20 in the quarterfinals. Dean added six kills and 14 digs. La’Jacqueline Morgan had five kills and Elizabeth Rhinehart had six service aces in the win.

Morgan led the Eagles (20-13) with six kills in a 11-25, 17-25, 18-25 loss to Alabama Christian in the semifinals. Kellie Rasmussen had a team-high 11 assists.

Rasmussen had 19 assists, 15 aces and 10 digs as Calera downed Elmore County 25-18, 19-25, 25-13, 25-20 in the consolation match. Morgan had 14 kills, Dean had 11 kills and Harris added eight kills. Courtney Isbell had 10 digs and Lori Ellison added eight digs.

Despite having only four upperclassmen on the varsity team, Heaton said she wasn’t surprised by how far the Eagles have come in her second season as the head coach. Heaton said she took over the program with high expectations in mind and the Eagles have worked to achieve them.

“They have earned every ranking that they have now,” Heaton said. “They have worked hard. I think we now have something to show for it.”

Regardless of the outcome in the sub-state match, Heaton said the future is bright for the Calera volleyball program.

“This is just the beginning,” Heaton said. “We’ve made big strides. If we continue to hold expectations high, we’ll continue to improve. I want banners.”

Dean said qualifying for the sub-state round of the playoffs in her fifth season of volleyball at Calera helps make up for her struggles through the first four years.

“It makes me feel like I accomplished something my senior year,” Dean said.