WENATCHEE — During the past couple of weeks, Wenatchee volleyball coach LeAnne McGahuey has made it a point to surprise her squad with, in her words, “fun silly things” before a match in an effort to foster team unity.
For example, before Tuesday’s tilt with Sunnyside, she told her players that they’d be wearing ‘retro’ uniforms — sleeveless, polyester jersey tops with prominent collars — that dated back to McGahuey’s playing days at Wenatchee in the early 2000s. For the Panthers’ Thursday home match against Eastmont, she decided to have her team wear yellow socks.
Other, more elaborate accoutrements might be in store for Wenatchee as the season goes along.
“I told them that next time, I’ll make some ugly headbands with ballerina stickers on them, or maybe some feathers or something,” McGahuey said after her team’s 25-17, 25-3, 25-13 victory. “They promised me that if I’m going to take time to come up with these things that they’d wear them no matter what.
“With girls, things tend to come down to the mental (aspect). Anything that I can do to help build the team dynamic and bring them closer together is a good thing. Having a small team (eight players) has been so beneficial to us. There’s no negative attitudes, and the girls work so well together.”
They certainly did Thursday; Wenatchee played at a consistently high level in virtually all aspects of the game to win its fifth consecutive match and stay on top of the Big Nine conference. It’s obvious that the Panthers are having a lot of fun on the court right now, and it’s showing in the way that they’re playing.
From the start, they overwhelmed the Wildcats with accurate serving, timely blocking, scrappy defense and an offensive attack that simply couldn’t be stopped.
Wenatchee (7-1, 5-1 Big Nine) peaked in the second set; up 6-2, the Panthers reeled off 16 consecutive points with Carly Rix serving.
“We just did a really good job,” said outside hitter Rachel Leiber, who led the team with 13 kills and four aces. “Everything was flowing together. We were hitting it hard and playing our best. It was so exciting (during the second-set run). We had a big adrenaline rush and everything felt good.”
“In the past, when things got slow, we’d have a tendency to slow down with the other team,” McGahuey said. “Tonight, we picked up the pace and didn’t let (Eastmont) get any momentum going, which was huge. We needed to learn how to play this way. We really pushed each other. We’ve got some momentum right now, and I hope that we’re able to keep it for the rest of the year.”
Kiana Black had seven kills and four blocks for the Panthers, while Kristina Tribley, who was named as a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state athlete of the week for her performance in the Panthers’ Saturday matches against Kent-Meridian and Central Valley, had 31 assists.
Cascade 3, Okanogan 0
Cascade continued to improve by working to eliminate errors from its offense.
“There was still too many errors in our first set,” Cascade coach Marni McMahon said. “But we cleaned it up in the next two.”
McMahon said the Kodiaks anticipated a tough match because Okanogan has “definitely gotten better.”
The Kodiaks lead the Caribou Trail League with a 7-0 record.
Chelan 3, Tonasket 0
Chelan held its second-place standing by beating Tonasket 25-8, 25-8, 25-2.
“Serving controlled most of the match,” Chelan coach Donene Hendricks said.
Abby Phelps went 23-for-24 in serving, Carley Pittsinger went 11-for-12 and Courtney Dietrich went 8-for-9.