|Lady Cats win districts and a trip to Grand Island|
By Christy Sheets
The Wallace Wildcats began their bid for the state tournament on Monday, Nov. 1 in Grant. Due to the fact that the Cats won conference, they were the number one seed in their sub-districts, and they earned a bye in the first round.
The Lady Cats’ first opponent, in the second round, was the Broncos of Wauneta-Palisade, who bested the Cardinals of Hayes Center in the first round.
The Lady Cats and the Broncos have met several times this season, and on every occasion the Cats were victorious. This time the Broncos wanted revenge, they started out strong, but the talented Wildcat team was just too much for them.
The Lady Cats seemed to have springs in their feet. They picked up everything, and blocked everything else. They took the early lead, and simply refused to relinquish it. The Lady Cats won the match in straight sets, 25 to 11, 25 to 4, and 25 to 15.
When asked about the game, Coach Rohde said, “The girls played really well tonight.” He added, “Our passing and blocking were definitely our strengths.”
Leading the team offensively against Wauneta-Palisade was Harris with 19 points (two aces), followed by O’Brien with 13 points (three aces). Hild had 10 points (three aces), Gardner had nine points (one ace), Kerchal had five points (two aces), and Smith had one point.
Leading the team with set assists was Hild with 18, followed by O’Brien with 13, Hasenauer with two, and Harris with one.
Defensively, Smith led the team with 15 kills and two blocks, followed closely by Gardner with 11 kills and six blocks. Harris had four kills and two blocks, Hochstetler had three kills and two blocks, and Hild had one kill.
The Wallace Wildcats were then set to play Tuesday night against the hard-hitting Falcons of Hitchcock County. Again the Cats played in Grant, in the Perkins County High School gym. The Lady Cats had faced the Falcons once before early this season, and in that match the Lady Cats took the win. Primed for a battle, both teams took the court with high expectations.
The Cats started the match battling nerves, but slowly gained some momentum. They took the lead 10 to six, and forced the Falcons to take a time out to talk things over. The Falcons battled back, as the Cats began to suffer from missed serves and missed opportunities, forcing the Cats to take a timeout, trailing 19 to 21.
Hochstetler had an awesome kill to stop a six-point service run by the Falcons, but the damage had been done, and the Falcons took the first set 20 to 25.
In the second set, the Lady Cats seemed determined to rally, taking the early lead five to three, but the Falcons, still charged from their first set victory, battled back to tie the score at eight.
The Wildcats regained the lead 12 to nine, but the Falcons dug in and tied the game at 13, then14, and again at 15. Neither team would allow the other to take control.
Finally, senior Katelynn Hild was able to put together a three-point service run to give the Cats some room, but the Falcons wanted the two-set lead and they battled back to tie the game at 23, forcing the Cats to take some time to talk it over.
Senior MaKayla Gardner pounded the next point to the court, giving the Cats their first set point of the match, this time forcing the Falcons to take time to talk it over. Both teams returned to the court with determination, the Cats pounded the ball at the Falcons, and the Falcons simply couldn’t return it giving the Cats their first set, 25 to 23, and tying the game at one set all.
In the third set, the Wildcats continued to build on their momentum, taking the early lead five to one. The Falcons tried to battle back, but a three-point service run by senior Paige Kerchal forced the Hitchcock County coaches to call a timeout to regroup their team. The Cats continued to stretch their lead on a three-point run by senior Laura O’Brien, 18 to eight.
The Falcons, however, refused to go down quietly, as they battled back to 21 to 16, forcing the Cats’ coaches to call a timeout. A well-placed tip followed by a nice block, both made by junior Brooke Hochstetler, gave the Cats a 23 to 18 lead, but again the Falcons began to rally, forcing Coach Rohde to call his final timeout of the set 23 to 21.
It was Hochstetler who stepped up with a decisive kill to give the Cats the serve at 24 to 21. Kerchal served hard and a tense Falcon team hit the ball out of bounds, giving the Cats their second set of the match, 25 to 21, two sets to one.
In the fourth set the Falcons seemed to sense the end of their season getting far too close as they battled to keep up with a talented Wallace team. Gardener had a five-point service run to give the Cats the lead13 to four. It was then that the Cats decided to make their move, gaining momentum with every point, determined to end the match in four sets.
The Falcons never gave up the fight, but the Cats were just too strong. The Cats won the fourth set, and the match, 25 to 19.
When asked about the game, Coach Strand said, “Once the girls got rid of their nerves, they played really well against a tough team.”
Leading the team offensively against Hitchcock County was O’Brien with 11 points (one ace), followed closely by Gardner (four aces) and Hild each with nine points, and Kerchal (one ace) and Harris each with eight points. Smith had three points. Leading the team with set assists was Hild with 26, followed by O’Brien with 18.
Defensively, Smith led the team with 22 kills and one block, followed by Gardner with 11 kills and four blocks. Hochstetler had seven kills and five blocks, and Harris had three kills and two blocks.
Because the Cats won their sub-districts, they won the right to play in the district finals game. The Lady Cats traveled to North Platte to face the Eagles of Brady on Thursday night. The Lady Cats packed their side of the gym, as did the Eagles, and the noise was electric.
Wallace vs. Brady
In the first set it was the Eagles that struck first, taking the early lead against a nervous Wallace team two to seven.
Gardner and Hochstetler began to rally their team, MaKayla with a couple of resounding kills, and Brooke with her brick wall blocks at the net. These plays seemed to give the Cats some momentum, and settle their nerves, pulling the Cats to within two, eight to 10.
Gardner also stepped up and put together a seven-point service run, forcing the Eagles to call a timeout, and giving the Cats their first lead of the night, 18 to 17.
The Eagles were determined, and the Cats had momentum, but neither team would let the other run away with the set. The Eagles had the first set point at 23-24, but a well-placed tip from the Cats tied the set at 24. A block from Gardner gave the Cats their first set point, 25 to 24, but a lift tied the set at 25.
A tip from Harris gave the Cats a second chance at the set, but the Eagles pounded one off the block to tie the game at 26. This time the Eagles had a set point, after a kill, but Smith answered right back with a decisive kill to tie the set at 27.
A lift, a couple of misplaced balls, and another kill from Smith saw the set tied at 29. A net call, an Eagle tip, and missed ball gave the Eagles the lead, 30 to 31.
The Eagles served out, and Kerchal finally was able to put together a two-point service run to win, what has to be one of the longest sets in district play ever, 33 to 31.
In the second set, the Eagles, once again struck early, taking a one to three lead. The Lady Cats rallied back behind a three-point service run of Harris to take their first lead in the second set four to three. The Eagles determination forced the score to 17 apiece.
Gardner stepped up and put together a five-point service run to give the Cats the lead 23 to 17. The Eagles tried to make one more run, but the Cats wanted the set. A shot off the block, and a kill by Hochstetler, and the Cats won the second set 25 to 19.
In the third set the Cats took the early lead seven to three, and they seemed driven to end the match in three. Brady continued to battle, but the momentum had definitely shifted in the Cats favor. The Cats played hard, our hitters and blockers were up for the challenge, and our setters refused to let the ball drop. The Lady Cats never relinquished the lead in the third set, and they won 25 to 13.
Because the Cats are currently third in the state in points for D2, and they won their district, they will have the number three seed in the state tournament.
Leading the team offensively against Brady was Gardner with 16 points (four aces), followed by Hild with 12 points. Harris and Kerchal each had seven points, and O’Brien and Smith each had two points. Leading the team with set assists were Hild with 22, followed by O’Brien with 18, Harris with two, and Gardner with one.
Defensively, Smith led the team with 20 kills, followed by Gardner with 10 kills and four blocks, and Hochstetler with 10 kills and two blocks. Harris had two kills, and O’Brien had one kill.
The Lady Cats will begin their battle in Grand Island on Thursday, Nov. 11. at 12:30 CT at Grand Island Central Catholic. The Lady Cats are set to play Dodge.