Allyson Fertig slams the ball over the net while taking on Thermopolis Sept. 15. In just her sophomore season, Fertig continues to improve her game and has stepped into a new role for the Lady Cats.

As the Lady Bearcats warmed up on the court prior to Saturday’s home conference opener against Thermopolis, head coach Angela Rhoades reflected on the team’s performance the day before in Buffalo.

She praised their ability to go on the road in a tough environment and defeat the Lady Bison in three sets. She also gave praise to one of her players and the strides she’s taken in just her sophomore season.

“Allyson (Fertig) has come a long way since last season,” Rhoades said as Fertig sent a practice spike over the net. “She’s almost a different player from last year to this year.”

In 17 matches this season, Fertig leads Douglas with 28 blocks and is second only to Haedyn Rhoades with 107 kills.

Towering over most opponents, Fertig’s 6 foot 4 inch frame is what sets her apart from the majority of volleyball players. She’s modest about her abilities on the court, but after making the transition from middle school to the competitiveness of high school volleyball a year ago, she admits there was a steep learning curve.

“I learned a lot,” she said. “I learned that I was capable of succeeding with a great team. The coaches taught me that everyone on the team has a role to play and we should take that role to heart.”

Before the season began, the Lady Cats knew there were big shoes to be filled with the departure of Madison Hoopman.

Rhoades mentioned earlier in the season that in order to fill Hoopman’s shoes, a number of girls would have to step up. Through the first month of play, Fertig hasn’t shied away from that role.

“What has helped me this year is confidence in myself and help from my coaches and teammates,” Fertig pointed out. “With the absence of Madi, our hitters have had to fill her role. It gave me a reason to step it up and work harder in practice and in games.”

Fertig’s dedication to learning and improving on the court hasn’t been lost on Rhoades. She recognized the difficulties that come with the change from middle school to high school competition and credited Fertig for rising to the challenge.

The sophomore has been a force on the front line for the Lady Cats as they’ve won 14 of their first 17 matches to start the season. She may be piling up numbers on the stat sheet and surprising her head coach, but she’s not soon to forget her teammates and how much they’ve helped her along the way.

“They provide the experience we need,” she said. “They’ve helped me better understand the game. In middle school all you worry about is getting the ball over the net and in high school, it’s way more complicated because you have so many new skills to learn and there’s much more teamwork involved.

“Whenever I make a mistake they’re always there to give me advice so that I can improve.”

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