The Lady Bearcats haven’t lost a match in a year. Not literally, but figuratively.
The last time an opposing team got the better of them, Thanksgiving was over a month away and Josh Allen was still throwing touchdown passes for the University of Wyoming. On their home court this weekend, the reigning state champions kept their 10-month long metaphorical streak alive.
For the second straight year, the Lady Cats began the volleyball season by winning the Douglas Invite. Over the course of two days, head coach Angela Rhoades and her team swept the competition and beat the 2A state runner-up, Wright Lady Panthers, 25-16 and 25-22 in the finals.
“This was a fun match,” Rhoades said about Saturday evening’s finals win. “Wright always has a great program. For us to get a win against them early in the year was a big step in the right direction.”
In the first game of bracket play Friday morning, the Lady Cats were relatively error free as they handled Burns in two quick sets, 25-10, 25-5.
During the second match of the day against Hot Springs, SD, confidence exuded and the Lady Bison were no contest, dropping both sets 25-12, 25-15. A third victory over Big Horn concluded the first day of action for Douglas.
“At the end of the first day, I really felt good about our offensive balance,” Rhoades said. “Every player took her role seriously and they all appreciated each other’s efforts.”
Having earned the top seed in the winners bracket to begin play Saturday, the Lady Cats faced off once more with the Big Horn Lady Rams. They were no match for Douglas’ strong ace serves and dropped two quick sets for the second time in less than 24 hours.
In the semifinals, a 2A powerhouse Pine Bluffs team gave Douglas a run for their money but the Lady Cats found a way to separate themselves time after time.
“Pine Bluffs has a great team,” Rhoades admitted. “They are tall and athletic. I thought we really served well enough to keep them out of their game.”
“This was definitely a quality win for us against a solid team.”
The Lady Cats were near immaculate to begin the 2018 season. They won all 12 sets on their home court, and in many ways, they picked up right where they left off.
Since their last defeat, coach Angela Rhoades and her team won the program’s second state championship in four years. They said goodbye to one of Douglas’ most storied volleyball players in recent seasons. And despite that, they’ve returned to the court this season nearly intact.
“With everyone back from last year, we have a lot of chemistry that’s returned,” junior opposite hitter Andi Hunsicker said. “We’re going to pick up Madi’s (Hoopman) slack but I think it’s good that we’re a new team.”
Rhoades’ team may not be new in terms of personnel, but they are a team especially loaded with experience.
They fill out with four seniors and a roster that now has at least two years minimum varsity experience. It’s part of the reason why the Lady Cats are primed for another successful season.
“Everyone knows their roles and knows what to expect of each other,” senior outside hitter Haedyn Rhoades said about this year’s team. “It’s really nice because everyone plays together really well since we’ve had that time together.”
Rhoades admitted that even though Hoopman’s shoes will be tough to fill, she’s confident in the Lady Cats’ ability to chip in and bridge the gap.
“Everyone has to step up a bit more but we’re all improving so much,” she added. “I think things are looking pretty good.”
“It’s going to be a fun year.”
Rhoades and the Lady Cats return to the court Aug. 31-Sept. 1 for the Campbell County Invite in Gillette.
During the first day of action they will face Billings, MT, Cheyenne East and rematch the Wright Lady Panthers. It will be a valuable learning experience for Douglas early on, and an opportunity to keep the metaphorical streak alive.
“It’s good to get knocked around a little bit by the larger schools,” Rhoades said about the 4A teams that will be featured at the Gillette Invite. “It really helps to play those teams and envision where we want to be by the end of the season.”