Ladies fall short in Gillette

By: 
Sonja Karp

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Editor

 

In their second weekend of preseason tournament play, the Lady Dogies struggled to finish sets in Gillette, but acting head coach Andrea Gregory insisted that the squad did some really good things despite having to make lineup adjustments.

Not only did the team find themselves a little short at the end of several sets, they were also short on the court due to the absence of 6-foot, 2-inch middle hitter/blocker Tiernan Stanton. Her blocking prowess and volleyball savvy were missed, and the whole lineup had to be adjusted as well, which had players filling roles that were new.

“We had a fill-in who wasn’t used to playing middle so that was an adjustment, and a back row player playing in the front row,” Gregory explained. “The block is our first line of defense so without that, it sent our back row into overdrive.”

In pool play on Friday, the Lady Dogies faced off first against the Lady Camels of Campbell County. The 4A squad threw some new elements of the game at Newcastle such as quick sets and tandem hits, which Gregory’s squad had to learn to defend on the fly.

“We came out pretty strong against them and hung with them, which was awesome,” Gregory said. “We struggled at first to defend the quicks early on, but by the end of the first set, MacKenzie Conzelman was getting up and getting soft blocks on them, so she was reading the hitter pretty well.”

In the end, the Gillette crew defeated the Lady Dogies in two sets with both scores ending at 19-25.

Newcastle then had a long wait before their next contest which had them pitted against the Lady Bearcats of Douglas. The Lady Dogies came out strong in the first set, taking the win with a 25-18 final score. However, the Lady ‘Cats ramped things up and rallied to take the next two sets, and the match 25-20 and 15-10.

“They have a strong outside hitter and we struggled to get a block on her,” Gregory began. “We typically pull our middle blocker from the right side, but we started to pull it from the left instead so Jaylen [Ostenson] could help out. All of that took some time to adjust to, which made a difference.”

The final contest of the day was against the 2A Sundance Lady Bulldogs. The Lady Dogies rolled over the Crook County team in the first set, 25-10, however in the second, they had to play catch-up to finally finish with a 26-24 victory and thereby win their first and only match of the tournament. 

“I think we just got comfortable and they took advantage of that,” Gregory admitted. “But I was pretty happy to see us battle back to get the win and not just roll over when we were down.”

The ladies returned to Newcastle at around 10 p.m. Friday night and were back on the bus at 7 a.m. for their first-round contest against Buffalo in the Silver Bracket on Saturday morning.

The Lady Dogies started slow against the Lady Bison and dropped the first set 19-25. In the second set, Newcastle turned things around to tie things up with a 25-23 win. 

“We rallied pretty well from the first set, but again we didn’t start very strong,” Gregory described. “Then Jaylen served 10 points in a row to put us on top, and we kept the lead throughout.”

Unfortunately, they couldn’t segue the win into the third set, so the Lady Bison took that set and match 15-11.

Against Glenrock in their second match of the day, Gregory noted that her squad just didn’t play their game. In the first set, the Lady Herders were victorious by a score of 21-25. In the second set, Gregory switched up her lineup a bit in the back row which helped the Lady Dogies flip the score and win it 25-21. Despite maintaining the same rotation, Glenrock rallied to win the third set 15-13.

The final contest of the day was against Burns. After losing to the Lady Broncs in three close sets last week in Douglas, Newcastle had an idea what they were up against. Burns was able to come out on top in two sets, defeating the Lady Dogies 18-25 and 22-25.

“The last set against Burns was a battle and we sure hit the floor,” Gregory declared. “But they have a great outside that we couldn’t shut down.”

“They are probably the most evenly matched conference team we have, and they are fun games to watch,” she continued. “I had players hitting the floor and almost running into the stands chasing down balls. They were long rallies and we fought hard, and it was really fun to watch.”

Despite leaving Campbell County without the record they had hoped for, Gregory noted that her team gained a great deal over the course of the two days.

“These early season tournaments are such great opportunities for us to work out the jitters and the kinks before we get into conference play, and overall, a lot of great things come out of it,” she nodded. “We have some drills to work on finishing sets so we’ll be implementing those this week. I also want to work on our dig errors and making sure we keep our hits in the court. If we can learn to do that, the sky’s the limit with this group.”

This week the Lady Dogies travel to Rawlins for another tournament on Friday and Saturday. Though the squad should have all members back in action, neither Gregory nor head coach Keeley Anderson will be able to be there. As such, head basketball coach Chad Ostenson is filling in during their absence. 

“The girls are pretty self-sufficient on the court, and Coach O knows the girls and knows how to coach them,” Gregory said. “He’s coming into practice so we can get him up to speed so I’m sure he’ll do a great job.”

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