Douglas came into this past weekend expecting its first big test since losing its only match of the season in the very first contest of the year to Torrington all the way back on Aug. 29.
The Lady Cats travelled to Kelly Walsh High School for the Casper Invite, competing in matches with the 4A Trojans and Campbell County Sept. 26.
The jump in competition was no problem for the newly healthy team, as they won four of five sets and both matches over the non-conference opponents.
With the games not having any bearing on seeding for the regional tournament, head coach Angela Rhoades took the opportunity to try new strategies in game.
“Since we were playing some non-conference opponents, we took a risk and did some unorthodox things with our game,” Rhoades said.
“I was really impressed with all of the kids adapting to some of our changes. Setter Kamdynn Townsend and Alli Olsen added a lot of blocking responsibilities and had quite a few slow-downs and really channeled the ball to our back-row defenders.”
The day began with an intense battle between Douglas and Kelly Walsh.
The Trojans applied pressure early, defeating the Lady Cats handily 25-16 in the best of two match, forcing Douglas to win the next two.
The next two sets consisted of back and forth play between two evenly matched teams.
After tying the match 1-1 with a 25-20 set win, Douglas struggled to put Kelly Walsh away in the third set, as the two teams went point for point in heated exchanges, with both teams emotionally celebrating each score.
The Lady Cats eventually secured the hard-fought victory 21-19.
“Both teams really had some great volleyball going on in this match,” Rhoades said. “Kelly Walsh has a couple kids that can really hit the ball, and they did get some kills, but I was proud of our kids for bending but never breaking.
“All year I have been wondering what this team could be when they finally were on the court at the same time, and we definitely got a taste of that today defeating a quality opponent like Kelly Walsh.”
The team carried that momentum into its match up with the Camels, defeating them in two sets.
Campbell County’s defense kept both sets close, but eventually the Lady Cats’ fire power put them away.
“Gillette is a very solid defensive team,” Rhoades said. “While they don’t have the hitters like Kelly Walsh, they do have a defense that keeps digging the ball until you mess up.
“We did have some stretches where we gave up some points to them, but overall, we competed hard especially at the end of both sets when the scores were close.”
Chloe Collins anchored the defense all day, playing two different zones and leading the team in digs with 33.
Allyson Fertig, Joslin Igo, Braiden Johnson and Kinley Johnson made up most of the offense.
Douglas will come back down to 3A for a match with conference opponent Newcastle (1-9, 1-1) 6 p.m. Oct. 1 to celebrate senior night and homecoming.
Fertig, Igo, Braiden Johnson, Kinley Johnson, Kaelyn McMahon and Townsend will be the seniors being honored.
After their quick stop back in 3A, 4A Laramie comes to town 12 p.m. Oct. 3 for the Lady Cats’ toughest test yet.
Laramie is 10-0 and ranked number one in the state, according to wyopreps.com
The team asks fans to wear gold to the game in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness.