(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
Maili Masuda comes up clutch, while Mia Bellevue and Abby Miller turn heads for the Cougars…
With the region-famous Chewelah student section not able to attend the first volleyball match due to COVID-19, the Chewelah Cougar volleyball team had to manufacture their own momentum. The Cougars were able to fend off NE 2B rival Kettle Falls in two close sets before running away with the third set for a 25-23, 26-24, 25-13 victory on Tuesday night.
“I feel that the turning point in the game was the beginning of the third set after we were behind in the middle of the second set and came back to win it,” Chewelah setter Mia Bellevue said. “We rode that momentum from that set into the third set and we ran away with it.”
Standing out in the matchup was Maili Masuda, who delivered 10 kills for the Cougar offense, along with picking up six digs. Bellevue dished out 20 assists and had five aces in the match against the Lady Bulldogs.
“It was a new experiencing play with masks and all new guidelines,” Masuda said in a post-game interview. “It was really fun coming back after almost a year of not doing anything and it was fun facing off with Kettle. They are always a good opponent.”
The evening was the first time Bellevue was a full-time setter for the Cougars, as the team has a “Next Generation” look as Chewelah graduated several seniors from last year’s state tournament team. This slate of new faces, however, isn’t exactly unexperienced in volleyball.
VIDEO OF MIA BELLEVUE PICKING UP AN ACE TO WIN THE SECOND SET 26-24
“I feel like we have a really good connection,” Masuda said. “We’re close in age and we all really have known each other for a long time. We really didn’t have that last year with such a higher age gap and our seniors were so familiar with each other. This year, we are such good friends, and so close, that has to be a good advantage for any team.”
Bellevue said she got great passes from Bailey Fuller and Erica Tindal to set up the offense, keeping her in the “pocket” that allowed her to dish it out to the right hitter. Bellevue also credited Masuda with her clutch outside hitting.
“That allowed me to have sets that were clean and my hands felt really good,” Bellevue said. “I always want to improve, keep building up the chemistry in the front row and work on my set selection.”
Chewelah took a 5-0 lead in the first set, but Kettle Falls battled back and trailed only 22-21 before the Cougars were able to take it 25-23. The Bulldogs led 20-17 in the second set as Chewelah struggled with some consistency but they came back for the 26-24 victory.
“I think we were able to get our energy up and that allowed us to have the ability to beat them by a lot when we had good communication,” Masuda said.
That “a lot” was in the third set when the Cougars pulled away 25-23.
VIDEO OF CHEWELAH TAKING THE LEAD IN THE THIRD SET
Still Kettle Falls looked strong at times, with senior Kathryn Lawrence notching seven kills and three blocks, junior setter Eve Young distributed nine assists. Junior Ashley Lawrence had five digs and four aces in the match. The Bulldogs had their closest match against Chewelah in several years. Chewelah has five consecutive sweeps against the Bulldogs dating back to the 2018 season, the Statesman Examiner is reporting, but this was the first time since 2018-19 Kettle Falls scored over 20 points in Chewelah.
“It’s really exciting,” Kettle Falls senior Alana McDaneld told the Statesman. “It’s nice to see us playing like a team. It shows how much we’ve improved from last year to this year. I feel happy and it was pretty surprising how close the games were.”
VIDEO OF KETTLE AND CHEWELAH EXCHANGING A LONG VOLLEY IN THE SECOND SET
One standout for the Cougars in the matchup was young Abbi Miller who came in to lead the team with two blocks and made her presence very obvious around the net when the sophomore was in the game.
“Listen, Abby Miller is one to watch,” Bellevue explained about her teammate. “She’s going to be a breakout player this year. A middle hitter position has a very fast tempo, it’s a difficult position to play. I think last night was just a preview of what’s to come for Abby. She has great blocks, aggressive net play and isn’t afraid to put the ball down. She’s great and I’m so glad to have her on our team.”
Last year the Chewelah Cougar volleyball team went 12-10, including a win at state and a 7-4 league record. They continued the tradition from last year at being a tough team at home. In 2019, they went 6-2 in the confines of Pein-Lynch Gym.
In 2019, Kettle Falls went 4-13 with a largely young team. They did, however, pick up two wins against Davenport and St. George’s each. As always, Northwest Christian – a consistent state volleyball power – will be the team to watch by both Chewelah and Kettle Falls this spring and probably in the fall.
“Bottom line is that it feels great to be on the court playing volleyball with this new generation of players,” Bellevue said.
HERE IS OUR INTERVIEW WITH MAILI MASUDA