Ladies can’t get past the Bearcats

By: 
Sonja Karp

Photo by Alexis Barker/NLJ

Hunter McFarland sets up Tiernan Stanton for one of her 16 kills on the night in the Lady Dogies’ loss to the Douglas Lady Bearcats last Thursday.

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Editor

 

The Lady Dogies learned the true meaning of the agony of defeat Thursday in their 3A Northeast Quadrant match-up with the Douglas Lady Bearcats as they let what seemed to be a guaranteed victory slip out of their fingers. 

They rebounded quickly, however, to take a win away from Sundance on Friday against the No. 2-ranked 2A Lady Bulldogs, which provided some relief to the disappointment of Thursday.

“The girls, the coaches, everyone was disappointed with our loss to Douglas,” began acting head coach Andrea Gregory. “We watched the film on Monday and we were ahead 20-12 in the third set and then we watched Douglas gain momentum while we lost it. It was hard to believe even though we were all there to experience it first hand.”

It’s been a hot minute since Newcastle has gotten the better of Douglas in volleyball, but as the contest got underway, it looked like the Lady Dogies were going to roll over the Lady ‘Cats. 

Newcastle dominated in the first set, swinging hard and attacking the net, scoring point after point off the Bearcat block, to cruise to a 25-16 win.

The second set started strong for the Lady Dogies as well and they led by as much as 7 before the Lady ‘Cats rallied to make it a game. Newcastle held on, however, to defeat them 25-23 and take the 2-0 set advantage.

Confidence was high for the orange and black as they headed into the third, and potentially deciding, set. Again, the squad dominated at the net and pulled out to an 8-point lead. However, the momentum shifted to Douglas and they went on a 13-2 run to push the match to a fourth set with their 25-22 win.

“We just started to scramble and we couldn’t pull it together,” sighed Gregory. “The girls felt like we started playing safe and tipping a lot, which is true. We weren’t swinging anymore and Douglas was covering tips really well. We stopped being aggressive and stopped playing to win, and were playing just to survive.”

By the fourth set, Douglas had cleaned up their block and rode their momentum to even the match up with another 25-22 win and then took the match with a 15-11 victory in the fifth set.

“We were not happy after that match. Our serving wasn’t great and we made enough mistakes to beat ourselves,” Gregory said. “We had a split record with them so we really needed that win, and having been so close to beating them finally, and to essentially give it away, was really hard for everyone.”

Newcastle ended the night with 57 kills against Douglas while the Bearcats finished with 29 against the Lady Dogies. 

Less than 24 hours later, the Lady Dogies had to take on Sundance who was ranked second in 2A last week. The Lady Bulldogs are senior heavy and have some pretty good players, so despite their class difference, they have a strong program.

In the first contest, the Lady Dogies struggled to get going. According to Gregory, her team was warming up on their block and trying to defend one of Sundance’s outside hitters.

“We weren’t shutting her down like we needed to in that first set, but then we did in the next three games,” she explained. “In the second and third sets, I challenged them that when Sundance gets the serve, at most they get 2 or 3 points, not 7- or 8-point runs. The girls started sticking to that and math wins, so that was how we were able to take the next 3.”

After dropping the first set 21-25, Newcastle went on to win the next three 25-22, 25-21 and 25-20.

All the way around the court, the Lady Dogies’ game was much improved over Thursday. Back row passing, serving and swinging at the net all looked better than it had against Douglas.

Tiernan Stanton and Hunter McFarland stood out regarding their performance at the net. Stanton ended the night with a 43% kill rate, racking up 21 kills in 49 swings. McFarland was also impressive finishing with a 41% kill rate. Out of 30 some swings, she had 14 kills and only 2 missed hits.

As one of the state’s leading blockers, oddly Stanton finished the night with only one block assist due to the Lady Bulldogs hitting over her and trying to avoid her. 

“Tiernan pretty much had the whole net to do with as she wished because Sundance wasn’t even trying to block her when she would swing,” said McFarland. “They were scared of her.”

Gregory was quick to note that Stanton’s success was also a team effort. 

“Credit goes to Tiernan for putting the ball away, but it also goes to the back row for getting the pass to the setter so she could set the middle,” she pointed out. “That’s not always an easy position to set, especially if the pass doesn’t come in a place to make it happen, so she had her whole team behind her, giving her the opportunity to swing.”

The win was important for more than one reason. It was much needed after the loss on Thursday, and it was a decisive win against a quality team on the road.

“I was really proud of the girls for having the mental fortitude to recover from the Douglas game,” Gregory said. “And we’ve done well at home, but have struggled a little on the road, so it was great for the girls to play well and win in someone else’s gym.”

This week, the ladies take on Torrington and Wheatland for the second time in as many weeks. They will travel to Torrington on Friday, then host Wheatland on Saturday. Newcastle split with them last time so is looking to go up 2-0 against the Lady ‘Blazers and even the record with the Lady Bulldogs.

“Our conference is definitely a level playing field this year, and it just depends on which team shows up that day. There’s not a team that we can’t beat, but there’s also not a team that we can’t lose to,” admitted Gregory. “It’s Torrington’s homecoming, so they’ll be looking to get revenge for their loss at our homecoming so we need to be ready, and I know we can beat Wheatland so we need to be ready to do that.” 

The match on Saturday is early with the JV beginning at 11 followed by the varsity match at noon.

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