Three little points.
Those three points were all that stood between the Diamond High School volleyball team and the 1994 Class 2A District championship. Coach Bill Presley's Wildcats were the top seed in the district tournament at East Newton High School and received a first-round bye. In the semi-final round, the Wildcats played unheralded Marionville. After splitting the first two games, Diamond took a 12-7 lead in game three. The 12th point came on a sight Wildcat fans had grown accustomed to that season...a pinpoint LeAnn Hottel set and a soaring Kelli Dorsey spike.
Three more points and the team that everyone expected to go to state would be well on its way.
The three points never came. Marionville scored the final eight points and Diamond's dreams...maybe even expectations... of a state volleyball championship came to an end.
Diamond had a good team, a championship-caliber team, even before Kelli Dorsey transferred to Diamond from Webb City for her senior year, but she was the final piece, a near six-footer with magnificent athletic ability and strong leadership skills. With Kelli on the team, Diamond breezed through its regular season and appeared unstoppable.
I remember watching Kelli Dorsey that night in October 1994. I had seen that anguished look on her face a few months earlier when her Webb City High School basketball team was beaten in the district championship game at Aurora on a fluke shot by Monett with six seconds left. I can still picture her standing in the middle of the court, looking toward the ceiling.
Kelli had one more opportunity for a high school championship. Basketball would begin the next week and maybe she would finally claim the gold. And there were college scouts salivating to add Kelli to their teams.
While Kelli was adjusting to the premature end of a special volleyball season, the Sarcoxie volleyball team beat host East Newton in the other semi-final, then beat Marionville for the championship. Many of those Sarcoxie players were friends of Kelli's. She was happy for them, but she still wished that it was her who was going to be heading for state.
The following weekend, Coach Dennis Drumm's Sarcoxie squad won two more matches to reach the Final Four. A special sendoff was planned for the team the following Thursday. A pep rally was held in the school gymnasium and the team received a police escort out of the city.
But it was a strangely subdued pep rally. Early that morning, the word had spread like wildfire around Sarcoxie High School. Kelli Dorsey had died the night before in a car accident, just 11 days short of her 18th birthday.
The atmosphere was even more subdued at Diamond High School and Webb City High School.
I talked with Tim Doss, her Webb City basketball coach the day after Kelli's death. "She was a great kid to be around," he said. "She had a lot of athletic ability and she always did what you asked her to do. She had a lot of things going for her. She was always a joy to be around. This is just a sad thing to have happen."
Tomorrow (Nov. 2) will mark 10 years since Kelli Dorsey's death. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to interview her a number of times, both at Webb City and at Diamond. I can also remember a few times after Webb City basketball games, I would talk to Coach Doss and his assistant, Elaine Shewmake, then head to McDonald's for a Coke. Usually Kelli was already there with some teammates. She would always wave me over, whether the team had won or lost and start telling me about the things she didn't do right. She wasn't berating herself. She would always tell me exactly what she was going to do the next time to get things right. Her teammates thought it was funny because she had nearly always outplayed most of the players on the court. She was always looking to improve herself.
I wonder what Kelli would be doing today if not for that untimely accident. Whatever it is, I know she would have been successful. She would never have settled for anything less.