Flagstaff over Catalina at Lions Den plus Kelsey Keefe’s storyby Andy Morales on Oct. 13, 2012, under Sports
Catalina senior outside hitter Madison Irwin might just be the last player standing when it comes down to picking the Southern Arizona player of the year this fall.
Catalina is unofficially 23-7 on the year and slowly climbing in the AIA/Maxpreps seedings. The Trojans are a year removed from a second place finish but that team lost the Southern Arizona player of the year in libero Courtney Pitts to graduation.
While Pitts is busy collecting honors at Pima this fall, Catalina struggled early but has since found their way, mainly due to the play of Irwin. Irwin plays defense, serves, hits, blocks and passes. She is a complete player in field where most of the dominant players sit out when they reach the back or the front or they get exposed as having incomplete skills when they attempt to stay on the court.
If Catalina does not get far in the post season or if they fail to even qualify for the state tournament then the old argument of whether a player of the year should come from a winning team or a struggling team might come into play. Arguments will be made on both sides.
As we near the end of the season, Irwin went up against a couple of the other POY candidates at the Mountain View Lions Den Invite and she came out on top. The Trojans swept through the field before coming up short against Flagstaff. Flagstaff is currently rated as the second best team in Division II while Catalina competes in D-III.
Flagstaff won the championship match 2-1 (25-23, 23-25, 15-11) over Catalina in a back and forth battle that was mainly decided on service mistakes by both teams in the first two sets.
Catalina committed three service mistakes and gave up two aces in the first set and it proved hard to overcome even thought they came back from a 23-19 deficit to cut the lead down to 24-23 before Flagstaff put it away.
Flagstaff returned the favor in the second set by committing six service errors with the last one giving Catalina a 25-23 win. Catalina built a 22-17 lead in that set but Flagstaff came back to within 24-23 before a long serve gave the win to Catalina.
The third set was tied at 10-10 but Flagstaff pulled away to win 15-11.
Randi Powers and Izzy Gosar put down 11 kills each for Flagstaff and Courtney Leffel added 7. Irwin held her own and collected 12 kills and 15 digs to lead Catalina.
Carla Dollopac added 10 digs for Catalina and Chloe Cox had 22 assists.
Bree Davis had 30 assist for Flagstaff and Hailey Leffel collected 22 digs with Powers adding 16 and Courtney Leffel putting up 15.
In the end, Catalina put in nine matches of work in two days. That’s a few weeks worth of activity in short period of time. The other teams that benefited from the invite were Tucson and Canyon del Oro.
CDO had Flagstaff on the ropes in the semifinals of the winners bracket but could not seal the deal and lost 2-1 and then they let Tucson High up off the floor with another 2-1 loss. Tucson lost to Catalina twice and finished in third place.
The three teams played a combined 25 matches.
Irwin saw Catalina’s play in the beginning of the year as an “eye opener” for her team that repeating their success from last year was not going to be easy.
“We’ve been improving and the team is getting close,” Irwin explained. “We lost our libero and we were trying to figure things out. I’ve just tried to play as consistent as I can for my team and I think I did really well this weekend.”
Irwin also plays soccer really well, well enough to earn a scholarship to play at New Mexico. Even though she sometimes thinks about what might have been had she decided to play volleyball in college, she is happy with her decision.
“I like playing defense in volleyball and hitting the ball feels good also but I’ve been playing soccer a lot longer than volleyball so it was easy choice for me,” she added.
Another case for a different kind of “Player of the Year” could have been made a couple of hundred yards away from the main gym at Mountain View.
The “old gym” is where a casual observer would have found a player wearing a soft helmet while playing the net for Santa Rita. Such a site is still a bit unusual in volleyball although Robin Rostratter wears one while playing at Cal- Berkeley in the PAC 12.
Rostratter wears her soft helmet due to a concussion she experienced but Kelsey Keefe’s condition is a little more involved even though it began with series of concussions.
Keefe plays goalie for Santa Rita’s soccer team and that is where her concussions began but she contributed to her difficulties in what the family admits was a bizarre and humorous incident that involved Keefe breaking her own nose.
“I did a dive-bomb on the couch to watch TV and a fly came by at the same time so I somehow managed to knee myself in the nose in midair to avoid the fly,” she explained with a smile on her face.
“People wonder how that was physically possible but I did it and I crushed the right side of my nose,” she added.
She eventually had surgery that fall to fix her nose and everything seemed to be normal until February 12th when she experienced her first fainting spell.
“It was not considered a big deal,” said her mother Colleen Keefe. “The doctors gave her Gatorade and dealt with it like it was from dehydration.”
Far from it. Kelsey fainted on the 13th and again on the 14th.
Now the doctors felt it was from some sort of anxiety. The usual questions of drug use, pregnancy, abuse and just plain nerves were asked of her.
With all the answers to those questions given in the negative, they gave her a tilt table test and she fainted within seven minutes. It was finally determined that she suffered from Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS). NCS is a temporary loss of consciousness associated with a drop in arterial blood pressure.
Simply, no blood was reaching her brain so she would faint to restore the flow. She also has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which is an abnormally large increase in heart rate caused by a change to an upright position.
Kelsey spent a week in the hospital and was given a green light to go home but she fainted again and broke her wrist as a result. This time, she stayed in Tucson Medical Center for 30 days.
She was given a full course of salty foods, so much so that she began a distaste for it. With a resting heart rate of 180, the doctors were concerned she might suffer a pediatric heart attack.
She was then required to go through rehabilitation to learn how to walk again since she was in a bed for so long. She had her 16th birthday party while in rehab thanks to her younger sister Kiley.
Which brings us to that helmet.
“I wore a skateboard helmet to school at first because we didn’t know what to do,” Kelsey said. The freshmen and sophomores at my school teased me and made fun of me.”
About 20 of my friends started wearing helmets to school also to show them that it wasn’t right to make fun of people with disabilities. Players on the football team also wore helmets to school.”
Hard to imagine that a girl in high school with so many issues would have to worry about other kids at a time like that. High school is already difficult for some girls as it is.
She put in physical and occupational therapy for six days a week this past fall before school and was a former mission worker to Haiti before her condition became apparent. Kudos to her classmates who came to her side when she needed it.
Kelsey is an AP student, concerned that this will go on for the rest of her life. She is on three heart medications but, when she was told volleyball was not an option, she told the doctors it was going to happen.
It took a while for the school to get used to the idea and that’s when they found a soft helmet like the one worn by Rostratter at Cal.
She hopes to one day be an actress but, in the meantime, she feels she will be ready to drive short distances soon.
Kelsey has to keep in constant motion or she might faint and each time could lead to something more disastrous for her and her family.
It did not matter that Santa Rita was unable to win a match at the Lions Den Invite on Friday or Saturday. What mattered is that the girl at the net with the helmet was able to play a sport she loved and that her team competed as best they could.
It also mattered that a group of her classmates came to her side. You don’t need to be able to spike a ball to qualify for Player of the Year honors, sometimes you just have to play or work to make sure others get to play….and live with dignity.
1. Flagstaff 7-0
2. Catalina 7-2
3. Tucson 6-2
4. CDO 6-2
5. Foothills 4-3
5. Sabino 4-3
7. Sahuaro 3-3
7. Mountain View 5-3
9. Kofa 2-3
9. Buena 2-3
9. Cienega 2-3
12. Amphi 5-2
13. Vista Grande 3-4
14. Sahuarita 3-5
15. Nogales 3-4
16. Cholla 2-5
16. Walden Grove 3-4
18. Sunnyside 1-5
18. Willcox 1-5
20. Santa Rita 0-5
20. Palo Verde 0-6
Friday, October 12
Buena over Sabino 2-1
Catalina over Palo Verde 2-0
CDO over Willcox 2-0
Flagstaff over Cholla 2-0
Foothills over Sahuarita 2-0
Kofa over Santa Rita 2-0
Mountain View over Walden Grove 2-0
Cienega over Nogales 2-0
Sahuaro over Amphi 2-0
Tucson over Vista Grande 2-0
Sabino over Santa Rita 2-0
Catalina over Sunnyside 2-0
CDO over Nogales 2-0
Flagstaff over Amphi 2-0
Foothills over Vista Grande 2-0
Kofa over Buena 2-0
Mountain View over Palo Verde 2-0
Cienega over Willcox 2-0
Sahuaro over Cholla 2-0
Tucson over Sahuarita 2-0
Buena over Santa Rita 2-0
Catalina over Walden Grove 2-0
Nogales over Willcox 2-0
Amphi over Cholla 2-0
Vista Grande over Sahuarita 2-1
Sabino over Kofa 2-0
Sunnyside over Palo Verde 2-1
CDO over Cienega 2-1
Flagstaff over Sahuaro 2-0
Tucson over Foothills 2-0
Walden Grove over Palo Verde 2-1
Mountain View over Sunnyside 2-0
Catalina over Mountain View 2-0
Walden Grove over Sunnyside 2-0
Saturday, October 13
Sahuaro over Cienega
Mountain View over Kofa
Foothills over Buena
CDO over Sabino
Flagstaff over Sahuaro
Tucson over Mountain View
Catalina over Foothills
Flagstaff over CDO
Catalina over Tucson
Flagstaff over Catalina
Sabino over Kofa
Sahuaro over Buena
Mountain View over Cienega
Sabino over Sahuaro
Foothills over Mountain View
CDO over Foothills
Tucson over Sabino
Tucson over CDO
Catalina over Tucson
Championship: Flagstaff over Catalina 2-1
Cholla over Palo Verde
Willcox over Santa Rita
Sahuarita over Sunnyside
Nogales over Walden Grove
Amphi over Cholla
Vista Grande over Willcox
Amphi over Sahuarita
Vista Grande over Nogales
Amphi over Vista Grande
Cholla over Santa Rita
Willcox over Palo Verde
Cholla over Sunnyside
Walden Grove over Willcox
Sahuarita over Walden Grove
Nogales over Cholla
Sahuarita over Nogales
Vista Grande over Sahuarita
Championship: Amphi over Vista Grande 2-1