The Douglas Lady Cats volleyball team had high hopes of returning with the championship trophy and 3A state title in hand, but they fell short as the Lady Panthers roared past them in the final match of the weekend.
The opening two days of the state tournament were promising for the Cats as they clawed past Lyman and Newcastle.
Opening day was an intense one for the squad. On Oct. 31, the Lady Cats defeated Lyman in the first round of the tournament 25-13, 26-24, 13-25, 20-25, 15-4.
“The first round is all about survival and we did that,” head coach Angela Rhoades said. “Lyman has some great blockers and hitters and showed that their defense has improved during the middle of that game. I was proud of how focused the girls were in game five to get the job done in convincing fashion to advance to the semifinals.”
The Lady Cats wanted to waste no time in the semifinals after their grueling five games the day before. In the second round the Cats defeated a very athletic team from Newcastle in straight sets 25-18, 25-21, 25-21.
“This match was one of the best we played all year,” Rhoades said. “Our hitters were smart when they needed to be and used power when we needed that. Our serve receive percentage was as high as it had been ever in the season and our floor defense was outstanding.”
Winning two games in a row during the state tournament is always rewarding for both the team and the coach.
“We were really moving our feet and running down balls,” Rhoades said. “Winning that semifinal match was a very exciting moment for this group. Advancing to the championship game is never easy to do, so for us to get this done in straight sets was an awesome feeling.”
Saturday was the all-or-nothing battle for the Lady Cats. The ladies came prepared to claim the title, but after losing the first two sets 25-23, 25-16, they knew they were headed for a battle on the court. DHS came into game three looking to claw their way back and beat Powell 25-22.
“I was feeling confident going into the fourth match,” senior Heather Townsend said. “No matter what happened, I knew we were going to keep fighting and keep giving it everything we had.”
In the fourth set of the championship game, the Lady Cats were defeated by the Powell Lady Panthers 25-14, costing them the title and the pain of going home empty-handed.
“With Powell having an outstanding weekend, we really needed to be at our best,” Rhoades said. “We did not end up very good statistically in defensive digs missed, passing percentage or in hitting percentage, and a lot of that is a credit to what Powell did offensively and in their serving game.”
Despite the heartwrenching defeat, the girls have a lot to be proud of after their 2013 season.
“I know the girls were disappointed,” Rhoades added, “but I also know, someday they will look back on this season and be proud of all they accomplished. They really had a great year and were a very competitive team. I am proud of the season these girls put together and will truly miss working with them on a daily basis.”
All was not completely lost for the girls, however. Several of the Lady Cats brought home recognition for their hard work throughout the season.
Senior Heather Townsend and junior Ashlie Blackburn earned All State and All Conference recognition, while seniors Kelsey Steele and Morgan Praska earned All Conference.
Honorable Mention All Conference was earned by seniors Brooke Marcus and Taylor Warlick, as well as junior Caitlin Boe.
“I’m very grateful to be given those awards,” Townsend said. “Although a state championship with my team would have been better, I’m very fortunate. Even though they are individual awards, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. Without their passes, I wouldn’t have been able to set the ball. They were able to put a lot of kills down. Also, my coaches helped me out a ton. They always encouraged me and I can’t thank them enough.”