Netters make a run at the ‘Blazers

By: 
Sonja Karp

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter

 

What began as a week with two matches scheduled for the Lady Dogies ended prematurely with only one against Torrington in Newcastle on Tuesday night. This is the second time the Lady Dogies and Lady Trailblazers have gone head to head in as many weeks, but two weeks made a difference in the outcome of the contest.

“We were excited to play them, because we wanted to see how some changes we had made since we saw them last were working,” head coach Keeley Anderson began. “After a disappointing start in the first set, the girls turned things around and made them work for everything they got.”

As Anderson pointed out, the Lady Dogies came out in the first set of the match very flat, and dug themselves a pretty insurmountable hole against the Lady ‘Blazers who came into the contest with a 9-2 record on the season.

“We just always seem to start slow and I don’t know why,” Anderson mused. “We’ll get the first point, or the first five, and then it seems to stop and the other squad goes on a run to put us in a hole.”

Torrington had a couple rotations which gave the Lady Dogies fits, and each time they would struggle to get a side out which Torrington used to their advantage to cruise to a pretty easy 25-12 win to take a 1-0 lead in the match.

Fortunately, the Lady Dogies were able to get things going near the end of the first set and they used that momentum to segue into the second set where they dominated the Lady ‘Blazers, right up until they were just a few points from 25. Torrington found another rotation which Newcastle struggled with and rallied to where the outcome of the set was in question. However, the home team was able to hold on to the lead long enough to take a 25-23 win and tie the match at one set to one. 

“I guess the girls just love to play volleyball and want to extend sets as long as possible,” Anderson laughed. “Because we tend to let teams back in the game when we have a comfortable lead.”

Having been swept by Torrington in three straight sets when the teams met just two weeks ago, forcing the contest to go to a minimum of four sets was already an improvement. 

Torrington came back to take the third set 25-19, but the Lady Dogies weren’t willing to call it a night and they rallied to take the fourth one 25-22. Once again, Newcastle had established a clear lead early and had the ‘Blazers on their heels, only to let them back in late before pushing the match to a fifth and deciding set.

This was only the second time all season that Newcastle has gone to the fifth set, so it was a little unfamiliar, and since the deciding contest only goes to 15, there was a lot more on the line a lot earlier in the set. 

“We started slow again in the fifth, and I was forced to use both my time outs early,” Anderson began. “We were able to come back and challenge them at the end, but serving errors came back to haunt us and we fell just two points shy of taking the set and match.” 

“It would have been so nice to get the win, but Torrington is a really solid team this year, so I think the fact that we had them on the ropes and on their heels was definitely nothing to be disappointed about,” she continued. “I’ve had a lot of refs make comments about how our girls play, so there’s talk which is great because it means the girls hard work is paying off.” 

Fatigue and nerves may have factored into the team’s ultimate defeat. After the match, Anderson made the decision to limit 6’2” middle hitter/blocker Tiernan Stanton to full time varsity from now on, and went on to offer high praise for the performance of a couple of Stanton’s teammates.

“I just can’t put Tiernan up against Alyson Fertig (Douglas’ 6-foot, 4-inch middle) after she has already played a game,” she stressed. “Even though I know she was tired, she played well, however. Hunter McFarland is also a beast, and her stats across the board are awesome. She gets almost 50 touches with just her set assist attempts. Jay [Ostenson] had 41 hit attempts with just four errors, so I was really impressed with that as well.” 

Net play was also much improved for the Lady Dogies. They were challenged with trying to thwart Reece Halley who is a strong outside hitter for the Lady ‘Blazers. 

“We’ve been working on taking away the cross court hit, and it’s taking a minute for them to adjust to directing where the hit goes instead of trying to get a full block, but they did pretty well with getting hands on some of those big hits,” Anderson nodded. “I could tell their coach was getting frustrated, and it is our girls’ number one goal to no longer be the team that is always underestimated and considered an easy win. I think they’re headed in the right track to get there.”

On Friday, the Lady Dogies headed down to Wheatland for a rematch against the Lady Bulldogs. Unfortunately, after playing the C-Team contest, they had to pack up and head back home.

“They had a girl who was tested for COVID early on in the week, but the positive test result didn’t come back until Friday,” Anderson sighed. “Public Health had given the green light for the game to go on as scheduled, however there was a change in plans regarding contact tracing, and we were notified after the first contest that the JV and varsity matches had to be postponed.”

The Lady Dogies have only one contest to prepare for this week as the Thermopolis Lady Bobcats are scheduled to come to town for the two squad’s second conference matchup of the season. The last time they met, the Lady Dogies picked up their only win of the season so far by defeating them on their home court in four sets. 

Given the new Regional plan for this historic season, this contest has taken on a much more important status when it comes to seeding. Currently, Newcastle is sitting in the three seed, and they want to remain there or move into the two seed in order to avoid having to play Douglas in the one-and-done format. 

“I know we can beat Buffalo and if we can turn things around, we can get to the two seed and then host Buffalo rather than having to play there,” Anderson nodded. “We are a totally different team this time around as well, so we will present a different look for the Bobcats which I think will be great for us.”

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