(GENO LUDWIG/Chewelah Independent)
IMPRESSIVE CAMPAIGN: You have to hand it to the Lady Cougars, they had one heck of a season in 2019…
A Cinderella season came to an end in Yakima last week for the Lady Cougars. That is the place where the Cougars were determined to finalize their volleyball campaign, and the Chewelah gals made their wish come true by being one of the sixteen teams from throughout the state that got to compete in the 2019 Washington State 2B Volleyball Tournament. And, furthermore, they proved they belonged there by defeating Lake Roosevelt on the opening day of the event.
Although the Cougars lacked the height of all their opponents during the season, Coach Kaya Landers developed their skill levels as a team and as individual players so they could compete with the taller teams.
During a home match against Lind-Ritzville a couple of weeks ago when the Lady Broncos came off the floor, one of their taller players was noticeably frustrated.
“How can those little small girls jump so high and hit the ball so hard?” she asked her teammates. “They are only this tall,” she continued, raising her hand to chest level.
Surely, players from other teams asked themselves that same question as the Cougars hammered one hit after another over the net at them.
And what a season it has been for our Lady Cougars! Some thought the season could end up in disaster with the loss of Alyssa Fitzgerald, the tallest player on the team, but Coach Kaya Landers made the necessary adjustments that allowed the team to continue to be highly competitive. Of the dozen teams in the league, Chewelah was one of four that earned a slot in the state bracket. And, of the 54 class-2B teams in the state, the Lady Cougars were one of only 16 that got to play in the state tournament.
It was because of their intensity that Chewelah volleyball fans really enjoyed watching the Lady Cougars play this season. Like the girl from Lind-Ritzville, they too had to ask themselves, “How can those little small girls jump so high and hit the ball so hard?” How can the team’s leading scorer be only five-foot-five? It was a credit to their confident coaching and their focused determination to become the best volleyball team they could be, a team that achieved its goal of playing in the state tournament. It was a volleyball season to be remembered.
Chewelah opened state tournament play on Thursday morning with a three-set loss to third-ranked Tri-Cities Prep: 25-17, 25-22, and 25-17. As the scores indicate, the Cougars were by no means blown off the court by the Jaguars from Pasco, who ended up taking home the third place trophy.
Lily Kirry was Chewelah’s top gun with 10 kills, followed by Natalie George with 4. Mia Bellevue and Maili Masuda had the only ace serves. Masuda led the Cougar defense with 9 digs, while Kirry and Elle Carpenter each had 8. Carpenter also had 16 assists.
That afternoon, Chewelah faced Lake Roosevelt in a loser-out battle in which the Lady Cougars won three of the four sets played to win the match. The Cougars lost the opening set by a 25-13 score, but they clawed their way to victory with win of 25-19, 25-9, and 25-15 to stay alive in the consolation bracket.
Kirry’s 19 kills topped front row hitters, followed by Haven Rainer with 5, and Natalie George and Masuda each had 3. Jessi Macrae served four aces, with George serving three and Kirry serving a pair.
Carpenter finished the match with 26 assists and 16 digs. The Chewelah girls found themselves in a dogfight for survival on Friday morning when they faced the Kittitas Coyotes. It was a loser-out match with the winner advancing into the trophy round and the loser going home. The Cougars won the opening set 25-23, but Kittitas came right back to take the second set 25-12. The third set went into extra serves with the Coyotes coming out on top 26-24. Kittitas then won the fourth set 25-19 to win the match and earn the opportunity to play for the seventh place trophy.
Kirry led the Cougars at the net with 17 kills, with Rainer swatting 11 a.m. George hammering 7. Macrae and Kirry each had three ace serves. Macrae had 11 digs, Carpenter had 10, and Taya Tapia had 9. Carpenter set 30 assists and had 16 digs. Kirry had 11 digs and Rainer had 7.
The loss ended Chewelah’s season. The important fact to remember about the season, however, is not when it ended but where it ended—at the state tournament. Congratulations, Lady Cougars! And a special thanks to seniors Haven Rainer, Lily Kirry, Elle Carpenter, Alyssa Fitzgerald, Jessi Macrae, and Taya Tapia. You set an outstanding example for the players who will follow in your footsteps!
Cougars who will return to the team next year include Natalie George, Mia Bellevue, Maili Masuda, Laynie Haskell, Kylee Dalton, Erica Tindal, and Kristen Erickson.