LEAVENWORTH — Eliana Ala’ilima-Daley set a new Cascade record with 33 kills during the Kodiak volleyball team’s Thursday showdown with visiting Chelan. The junior outside hitter is in the middle of a breakthrough season, and had a typical fantastic performance against a very good Goats squad.
But on the occasions when Chelan was able to take Ala’ilima-Daley out of a play, Cascade’s offense really wasn’t impacted all that much. Kodiaks setter Johnna Rieke simply passed the ball to one of the team’s several other impact hitters, and more often than not, one of them would come through to deliver a crucial point for Cascade.
The Kodiaks’ hitting depth is just one of the many attributes that they showed Thursday in their riveting 25-18, 20-25, 25-19, 25-18 win.
“Eliana had a stellar night. I’m so proud of her,” said Cascade coach Marni McMahon. “But we’ve got four major hitters that can all put the ball away, which is nice to have. We can spread the ball around, and when Eliana is blocked, we can turn to someone else.”
Cascade hit several milestones with the win — it finished off a perfect Caribou Trail League season (14-0); clinched its second straight league championship; earned a 1A state tournament berth; and beat its main rival for the second time in two weeks.
It was no wonder that after the final point of the fourth set, the Kodiaks players let loose with their loudest, most raucous celebration of the night.
They finished the first portion of their season — the regular season — playing as well as they’ve played all year. Now they’ll turn their attention to their second campaign — the playoffs — in their quest to best last year’s third-place state tournament finish.
“I’m shaking (with excitement),” said Rieke, who recorded 50 assists, three short of the Cascade record for a match that she set two weeks ago in Chelan. “It’s a great feeling. I’m so proud of the team. We’ve had a great run, and it’s not going to end here. (Beating Chelan twice) took a lot of mental work, but we had no doubt that we’d win (Thursday). We just had to stay calm. We knew we could beat them; we knew we had the ability.”
All night long, Rieke displayed her ability to set the ball to the right hitter at the right time at the right place; her performance was a big reason for the great games turned in by hitters Ala’ilima-Daley, Sydney Coffin (10 kills) and Gabby Brulotte (10 kills) and middle blocker Brenna Barton.
“She’s one of the best setters that I’ve coached here,” McMahon said. “And she’s a great leader on the court.”
Chelan hitter Abby Phelps virtually matched Ala’ilima-Daley’s performance (she tallied 30 kills), but after Phelps led the Goats to a second-set victory by accounting for seven points, Cascade made a defensive adjustment in an attempt to limit Phelps’ effectiveness.
The changes worked well enough to allow the Kodiaks to win the crucial third set, then put the match away in the fourth set.
“(Cascade) definitely had more activity in the middle,” said Chelan coach Donene Hendricks. “Once again, it was a slugfest, swing for swing, but they played a clean game. There were some long rallies, but they won more of them, and those long rallies are momentum-builders. We struggled with ball control — we didn’t serve well and we didn’t receive well enough to stay in a good offense.”
As the league champion, Cascade receives a bye through the first round of district tournament play, and won’t play again until Nov. 9 for seeding purposes.
The Kodiaks could face the Goats (11-2 CTL) once again in the district championship, if Chelan can advance that far. Hendricks said that her team will most likely start postseason play against Quincy on Tuesday.
“We lost to a very good team,” Hendricks said. “Now it’s back to the drawing board to see what we can do to get better.”