volleyball huddle

Head coach Angela Rhoades huddles with her team to discuss strategy as Emma Saunders (16), Alyssa Bullington (4) and Braiden Johnson (10) listen and prepare for the rest of the match.

For the last time this regular season, the Douglas Lady Bearcats went head-to-head with multiple opponents in a single day at the Casper Volleyball Invitational. The team ended the trip with a 1–4 record, moving them to a 15–9–2 record on the year.

The two-day tournament kicked off on Sept. 27 when Douglas faced off with Star Valley, Cheyenne East and Laramie, in that order. The Lady Bearcats fell in all three matches on the first day, but that wasn’t an issue for the team’s coaches.

“We had an incredibly tough pool on Friday playing three of the top-five 4A schools. I even had the tournament director apologize to us for it being stacked so hard,” head coach Angela Rhoades said. “We could have easily not even won a set all day, but instead, our kids played so tough. Running yet another new line up, we forced every match to three sets and really turned some heads that day. Even though we went 0-3 for matches, it was probably the best we’ve played all year.”

Even with a daunting gauntlet of opponents, Douglas never admitted defeat or gave an inch. In the first match, they were faced with the Star Valley Braves. The Lady ’Cats jumped out to a quick lead, winning the first set 25–19. Star Valley took the following two sets 16–25 and 7–15, sending both teams into their first break of the day.

The tournament started at 9 a.m. on Friday, four courts lined up in a perfect, larger rectangle. Fans dotted the seats of the Casper Events Center, piling into the first few rows to watch their friends and family. As the day progressed, the Lady Bearcats got closer and closer to pulling off a win.

For the second game, they faced off with the Cheyenne East Thunderbirds. This time, it was the Thunderbirds that jumped ahead first, taking the first set 17–25 on court one. Refusing to back down, Douglas took the second set 25–21 before falling in a nail-biter, 13–15.

The girls from DHS were two points away from pulling off a day one upset, but instead of letting themselves get down, they prepared for the day’s final match — a date with the Laramie Plainsmen. There was nothing plain about the game though with the two teams splitting the first sets with inverse scores. Douglas won the first 25–21 before losing 21–25 in the second.

It all came down to the final set. Not just the final set of the match, the last of the day for both teams. Laramie stole a 10–15 won and sent the Lady Bearcats back to Douglas for the night. By the next morning, all 18 teams returned to Casper to take on bracket play. For the first match, Douglas was squared off with the Sheridan Broncs. It was the only two-set match of the trip for Rhoades’ team — falling 21–25 in subsequent sets.

It took until the last match of the weekend for the Lady Bearcats to nab their first, and only, win. The Lady Bearcats ended the trip against a fellow 3A team, the Mountain View Buffaloes. Mountain View took the first set 19–25, but after switching sides of the court, something clicked for Douglas.

They finished the second set on top 25–20 before closing out the third set for the first time in Casper. Pulling out the 15–13 win ended the trip on a high note after two days of physical, difficult volleyball against challenging opponents.

“I was really proud of our kids for coming back in the last match of the tournament and beating Mountain View. They were ranked ahead of us last week after beating us in Rawlins and so it was good to show improvement,” Rhoades said. “I really believe if we can keep working hard and believing in ourselves, the adversity that we have faced as a team this year in so many ways can only help to make us stronger in the end.”

The Lady Bearcats were back to nearly full strength, returning most of the starting lineup for the weekend. Senior Andi Hunsicker led the group with 58 digs and 71 serves received. She also collected four aces in the five games. Junior Kamdynn Townsend had 93 assists, averaging 6.64 per set. Townsend added four blocks and six aces to her totals.

No two players had more kills in Casper for the team than Joslin Igo and Allyson Fertig. Igo killed 41 balls, received 20 serves and collected 31 digs. Fertig recorded 37 kills and blocked eight balls.

Sophomore Chloe Collins was a force across the court, acing seven serves while receiving 25 of her own and fighting for 44 digs. Representing the juniors, Braiden Johnson received 15 serves and earned 15 kills. Alli Olsen ended the five-game stretch with five kills and six blocks.

Next on the docket for the Lady Bearcats is a pair of road games, first in Newcastle on Thursday and in Laramie on Saturday. The team’s next home game will be Oct. 11 against the Torrington Trailblazers.

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