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By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Lady 'Cats end skid with win over Newcastle


September 18, 2018


Lady Bobcat Ashley McPhie (2) celebrates with her teammate during an August 28 match against Powell at Hot Springs County High School.

Lady 'Cats end skid with win over Newcastle


Sports Editor

THERMOPOLIS -The Hot Springs County High School volleyball team had one goal on Friday and that was to take down the visiting Newcastle Lady Dogies. The Lady Bobcats accomplished their mission, winning 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-15) and notched an important 3A Northeast division victory.

"They played really, really well and I'm proud of us finally playing as a team and not letting down. We let Newcastle go on a few runs but we stayed ahead for most of the match, and that was good to see," said HSCHS volleyball coach Shannon Hill.

Getting back in the win column was due in part to the hard-nosed practice that Lady 'Cats went through last week. After a disappointing weekend in Rawlins on September 8-9, Hill decided to increase the practice intensity and take away each varsity jersey, with the hopes of refocusing her team.

The changes and new motivation worked as the Lady 'Cats played as a cohesive unit, scrambled for every ball and more importantly, took a step closer to playing to their full potential.

"I also took away all their varsity jerseys and told them they need to earn it back and all the parents were like 'You need to do that every week!' I really liked the tone of our practices last week and they responded well to it all.

"One thing I thought we really improved upon was our scrappiness on defense. Newcastle is pretty scrappy too when we saw them a week ago," said Hill. "We worked on defense and I thought the girls stepped up and were getting the ball up for our setter and were able to attack more. Our servers were more consistent, our hitters were more consistent and that was a huge piece of our game that we worked on last week."

Added Hill, "We still had seven serving errors but we had more aces than we have in the past. I made changes in the lineup that gave us more consistent servers."

After their Newcastle win, the Lady 'Cats had to quickly refocus and prepare to take on the No. 1-ranked Douglas Lady Bearcats on Saturday. Making things tougher Thermopolis had to travel to Douglas to play 3A's defending champions.

The match did not go well for the Lady 'Cats as they fell 3-0 (25-8, 25-7, 25-8). After the match Hill told her players she'll take the blame for the loss. She hadn't prepared them for Douglas because, sensing a critical point in their season, she wanted the team to focus their energy on the home match against Newcastle.

"They're just an amazing team," said Hill of Douglas. "They run a fast offense and we were focused on getting past a team of Newcastle's caliber. I told the girls after the Douglas match that I didn't prepare them at all for Douglas because we were so focused on coming together and being the team we needed to be at that point. I take fault in not preparing them for that Douglas match but we also played really scared and timid.

"We sent over too many free balls and with a team like Douglas, you just can't do that. This week we'll really work on playing defense against a faster offense and a hard, heavy hit ball. They also have servers that serve very well and can hit to spots. They were picking on some of our girls and I think that was getting in our girls' heads too."

Hill saw a lot of inspired play from her team in both matches. Ashley McPhie logged 14 kills, a career-high, against Newcastle and Kelly Johnson added six. Against Douglas Taytum Vialpando made tremendous strides on her blocking, picking up 3.5 blocks against one of 3A's best teams.

"Ashley had 14 kills which was a career high for her. Kelly had six but she played really smart and consistent. My sophomore, Taytum Vialpando, she threw up some blocks against Douglas. Which is pretty impressive against Douglas' big middles, I was really proud of her because she's been working hard on that," said Hill.

By no means are the Lady 'Cats going rest on their laurels with a victory in September. If anything the weekend was a teaching moment for the team.

On Friday they learned when they play focused and as a team they can be competitive. Saturday's lesson was a reminder that if they want to compete for a championship, getting by a team like Douglas is a must.

With that in mind Hill knows her players are going to be ready to go for practice this week, as they prepare to host Buffalo on Friday and Douglas on Saturday.

"They were frustrated with their Douglas match but I know they'll turn it into work. They know there's still work to do and if we can still have these small victories, like our win against Newcastle. I kept reminding them of that, our goal was to get past Newcastle and prove that to ourselves.

"Now we need to prove that with a team like Douglas. We have Buffalo Friday night who is a step up from Newcastle, then Douglas who is a step up from Buffalo. They're proud of themselves but they know there's still work to meet our goal of making it to state," said Hill.

The Lady 'Cats match against Buffalo starts at 6 p.m. Friday and their Saturday match against Douglas begins at 1 p.m., both matches will be at Hot Springs County High School.


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