WENATCHEE — Despite a number of departures from last year’s Big Nine championship team, the Wenatchee volleyball squad picked up where it left off with a dominant win over cross-river rival Eastmont on Wednesday.
Wenatchee, which had four new faces in its starting lineup, swept the visiting Wildcats 25-21, 25-11, 25-16. The Panthers dominated in just about every phase of the game, but led the charge with a daunting presence at the net.
Their size and athleticism up front led to a cache of timely blocks and momentum-building kills.
“When we get a block or a kill, we celebrate a lot, which keeps us pumped up,” said senior middle block Kiana Black, who recorded five kills and five solo blocks in the three-set victory.
Black and veteran teammate Rachel Leiber imposed their will at the net and accounted for a number of big plays throughout the contest. Both players notched five kills over the course of the contest and were a consistent threat up front.
The two veteran Panthers could be even more dangerous as the season progresses, Black said.
“We have a strong front, and we’re getting used to the new setters,” the 17-year-old said.
Wenatchee withstood a 6-0 Eastmont rally late in the first set to take control.
It had its most dominant stretch in the middle of the contest after jumping out to a 9-2 lead in the second set after a pair of service aces from Black. Just about everything was working for the Panthers in that span and they wrapped up the set on a 6-2 run.
Wenatchee stayed in control for the remainder of the evening and never trailed its opponent.
Coach LeAnne Branam was pleased, but not surprised by her team’s strong performance. She expected her team’s play at the net to dictate the pace of action.
At the same time, Branam believes Wednesday’s outing was just scratching the surface for a team that went 9-1 in Big Nine play last fall and is optimistic of all the untapped potential on her squad.
“We’re a big team and we’re able to rely on our hitting and blocking,” she said. “But we need to improve on that.”
Eastmont, on the other hand, had a number of positives to draw upon, despite losing in three sets.
“Last season, when we played Wenatchee in our opener … we played uneven and flat,” first-year coach Molly Nelson said. “This whole match to me tonight, it showed how our girls are holding one another up and playing for one another and showing some good character.”
The Wildcats had stretches of play that showed potential for the upcoming season and won several hard-fought series throughout the evening.
Nelson liked the communication she saw from her players.
“They held their heads high and were determined all night long,” she said.