(GENO LUDWIG/Chewelah Independent)
Cougars make final sixteen in state…
The day Chewelah volleyball coach Kaya Landers took the job, her family made hotel reservations in Yakima for the state tournament.
Now, the Chewelah’s Lady Cougars will be competing in the State 2B Volleyball Tournament at the SunDome in Yakima, beginning this morning, November 14, and continuing until a state champion team is crowned on Saturday afternoon. The Cougars won two of their three matches at last Saturday’s District 7 2B Tournament at Liberty High School and will now face Tri-Cities Prep in the opening round of the 16-team state championships. They will play again this afternoon against either Lake Roosevelt or Kalama.
“We were all really excited to punch our ticket to state, but honestly, we had set that intention from the very beginning so I very much expected to be getting a berth,” Landers said. “I think it’s important to have more than a goal but to have an expectation and an intentional action plan to do what you set out to do.”
Chewelah began district play at home on Thursday by ousting Lind-Ritzville in consecutive sets. The tournament continued at Liberty on Saturday where the Lady Cougars lost its morning match to Liberty in three sets. That afternoon, they returned to the floor to sweep Wilbur-Creston in straight sets to earn their ticket into the state tournament. Later that day, the Cougars lost to Colfax in a four-set match to place fourth in the district.
Northwest Christian blanked Liberty 3-0 to win the district championship. The Crusaders will meet Kittitas in the first round of the state tournament on Thursday, while Liberty will face Wahkiakum and Colfax plays Brewster.
“The NE 2B North and South are very strong as it compares to the rest of the state. They key for our team to be successful is to continue our mindset that we belong there and also to be able to make quick adjustments to other teams tendencies that we haven’t seen before,” Landers said. “We are a great defensive team so we need to be able to quickly adapt our defense to the different types of hitters that we face in order to keep our offense in system.”
Chewelah 3, Lind-Ritzville 0
The Lady Cougar opened district play on Tuesday with Lily Kirry leading a three-set sweep over Lind-Ritzville with 16 kills. The Cougars overpowered the taller Broncos who struggled throughout the match to get the ball set to their front row hitters. On the Chewelah side of the net, Elle Carpenter set 29 assists to Cougar hitters and Haven Rainer added eight timely kills. Chewelah also had 10 blocks that helped stifle Bronco hitters.
In the first set, the Cougars took an early 10-4 lead with Kirry and Rainer taking charge up front. The Broncos came back to close the gap to 10-9 midway through the set, but Chewelah found its flow and cruised to a 25-15 win. Kills by Kirry, Rainer, and Carpenter, along with ace serves from Natalie George and Jessi Macrae took the Cougars to the magic number.
Chewelah scored the first five points of the second set and went ahead 8-2 on kills from Maili Masuda, Rainer, and Kirry, and a pair of serving aces from Macrae. As in the opening set, the Broncos bucked their way back to knot the score five times and even held an 11-10 lead. Cougar kills from Kylee Dalton and Rainer kept the score close until the Chewelah girls surged to the win. Block-kills from Kirry and Dalton kept the lead on the Cougar side of the scoreboard at 21-18, and then Rainer administered the final two kills for the 25-19 victory.
The third set stayed close through the first dozen serves as Kirry hammered six quick kills to give Chewelah an 8-4 lead. Then, the Cougars started to widen the gap with an ace serve by Macrae, a block by George, and a dink from Carpenter. It was all downhill from there as kills from Mia Bellevue, Masuda, Kirry, and Rainer quickly brought the set and match to an end at 25-15.
Liberty 3, Chewelah 0
The district tournament continued at Liberty High School on Thursday with all eight teams still in contention for a state berth. Chewelah was among the four teams in the winner’s side of the bracket going into the match, but a three-set loss to the host Lancers that night moved them over to the loser-out side. Asotin and Lind-Ritzville each lost their second match and were the first teams to exit the tournament, leaving six teams to vie for the four state entries.
Liberty came into the match with a 14-1 season record. Its lone loss was a five-set overtime barnburner at Colfax midway through the season. The third-ranked Lady Lancers left no questions about their ranking when the defeated the Lady Cougars in straight sets: 25-15, 25-22, and 25-6. The win sent Liberty into the district championship match against Northwest Christian. Chewelah dropped into a loser-out encounter with Wilbur-Creston (9-6), a team they had split matches with during the league season.
Haven Rainer led the Cougars at the net with nine kills against the Lancers. Lily Kirry had 14 digs and three ace serves, while Elle Carpenter set 17 assists. Natalie George finished the match with two blocks.
Chewelah 3, Wilbur-Creston 0
During the regular league season, Chewelah had split matches with Wilbur-Creston. The Lady Cougars had won the first match is three sets early in the season. The Wildcats returned the favor by scratching out a five-set win in a cat fight at Wilbur later in the schedule. This third matchup had a state berth on the line.
“Our team did pretty well at districts as a whole,” Landers said. “We continue to learn and get better every day so there are definitely still some growth steps happening but they showed some mental toughness and team unity that is really important at this stage of the season.”
Like in their first encounter, Chewelah won the match in three sets with Lily Kirry’s 22 kills and three blocks dominating front row play. The Cougars won the first set 25-10, followed by wins of 25-22 and 25-14. Elle Carpenter set 31 assists, Jessi Macrae had 17 digs, and Mia Bellevue had three ace serves.
Colfax 3, Chewelah 1
Chewelah had a great start in the battle for third place against Colfax when the Lady Cougars won the opening set by a 25-17 score. Although the remaining sets were hard-fought with two coming down to the final few serves, the Lady Bulldogs bagged the win. The second and third sets both ended at 25-22. Colfax won the fourth set by a 25-19 score.
In spite of the loss, Haven Rainer had a powerful performance at the net with a career record 17 kills. Elle Carpenter set 32 assists, Jessi Macrae had 19 digs, Natalie George blocked four Colfax hits, and Lily Kirry had two ace serves.
“We have gone through some adversity with injuries and lots of things happening behind the scenes, but we’ve worked so hard on building a healthy team culture and that’s allowed us to continue to grow,” Landers said. “That’s actually what I am most proud of with this team….in one short season they have done a tremendous amount of work on their mindset, team dynamics, and really dealing with issues as they have come up which has resulted in a positive shift in team culture.”