WENATCHEE — Even though the Wenatchee volleyball team has enjoyed a good amount of success during coach LeAnne McGahuey’s six-year tenure, there’s one big prize that’s eluded the Panthers over that time: a league title.
With the way the Panthers are playing right now, though, it’s not that hard to envision that drought coming to an end very soon.
“We feel that it’s our time,” McGahuey said after her team avenged its only Big Nine loss of the season Tuesday with a resounding 25-16, 25-17, 20-25, 25-18 home win over Eisenhower, its seventh consecutive victory. “The league champ hosts the district playoffs, and we’d really like to be playing at home.”
It was apparent from the start of Tuesday’s match that Wenatchee badly wanted to avenge that earlier loss to the Cadets, who entered the match tied with Wenatchee and Moses Lake atop the Big Nine standings with 5-1 records.
“The girls were fired up,” McGahuey said. “They were talking about (this match) all week. This was a match that we needed to win. We have momentum that hopefully we can finish the season with. You always want to beat the team that beat you.
“We have to remember what we did tonight (if we match up with Eisenhower again in postseason play), but it’s going to be tough.”
“We didn’t have things figured out as a team (in our earlier loss to Ike),” said outside hitter Kiana Black. “It was just our second match of the season. We had nothing down there; we were drained. Tonight we had way more energy.”
In their practice sessions leading up to the match, the Panthers focused on finding ways to limit the effectiveness of Brooke Brown, Eisenhower’s top hitter.
Wenatchee’s efforts paid off, especially early on. Brown recorded just two of her 10 kills in the first and second sets.
“We moved our blockers in and made (Brown) mix up her hits instead of getting a full swing on the ball,” McGahuey said.
The Panthers’ play at the net was crucial to their early lead. Wenatchee recorded 10 of its points off blocks in the first and second sets.
Black recorded nine blocks, and Christie Adams added six.
“First, I watch the setter and where the ball is going to go,” Black said. “Then I see how (the hitter’s) body is turned and where her hand is. When she swings hard, her body’s at an angle, so I step in a little bit.
“(Having success at the net) depends on how the game is going. Sometimes we’re going to have good defense and sometimes we’re going to have strong front net play, but I think we can win playing either way.”
“Kiana is focused and driven,” McGahuey said. “In practice, if she doesn’t get a block, she doesn’t get angry; she just gets back in there and gets a block on the next one. She’s really good at adjusting to situations, and she doesn’t often repeat a mistake. She’s definitely been a good addition to the team.”
In the third set, the Panthers lost some of their momentum as Eisenhower made some adjustments to get Brown freed up a bit to find the soft spots in Wenatchee’s defensive alignment. The Cadets took an early lead in the fourth set as well, but after Wenatchee battled back to tie the set at 17-17, the Panthers recorded eight of the next nine points to end the match.
“We just kept the positive talk going (in the fourth set), and that helped a lot,” Black said. “We worked together well and were able to pull ahead. Things were tense, but I knew that I could trust my teammates. I just had a feeling we could win.”
Bridgeport 3, Manson 0
Timely aces kept Bridgeport ahead at the end of all three sets against visiting Manson.
Bethany Swezey served the final three points (two aces) of the second set, and teammate Anita Velazquez served four aces in a row late in the match.
Cashmere 7, Quincy 2
Cashmere’s first three goals came after just four shots of its win over host Quincy.
Bulldogs sophomore forward Tessa McCormick found her rhythm with three goals in the first half. Junior Jesica Bauer assisted the first two of McCormick’s scores.
The Bulldogs came out sharp in the first half, coach Dennis Tronson said, staying synchronized in what they have been focusing on.
“Keep the ball moving quickly between players, make a lot of short passes,” Tronson said.
Cascade 4, Chelan 0
The Kodiaks sent well over 20 shots on goal in their shutout win at Chelan. Cascade improved to 6-1 in Caribou Trail League play with the win, while the Goats fell to 1-8.