The Chadron volleyball team, rated No. 5 in the Omaha World-Herald’s Class C-1 state ratings, improved its season record to 16-0 by cruising to a 25-8, 25-19, 25-20 sweep of Scottsbluff on Thursday night at Scottsbluff High School.
Both teams will turn around and see each other again on Saturday when they travel to Alliance to compete in the Western Conference Tournament. Their opening match in the tournament will be played at 9 a.m. at Alliance High School.
“Overall, I thought we played pretty well and I told them that,” Chadron coach Don Matt said. “Our serve receive was a little iffy there at times. But like I said, we’re going to have to turn around and play Scottsbluff again on Saturday morning, so we can’t let up. We’ve got to take every team that comes at us and play it like a district game. Hopefully, we do that on Saturday.”
The Cardinals started the match on fire by jumping out to a 13-2 lead in the opening set. Chadron hitters recorded nine kills in the early run led by seniors Ashlyn Eitemiller and Alia Brennan, who both tallied three apiece. Maaryn Davis also helped power the Cardinals in the set, recording two kills and two ace serves en route to the 17-point win.
Matt was pleased with the way his squad started the match, and said that it’s nice to have the depth to be able to pick up points from anywhere on the floor.
“We have numerous people we can set the ball to,” he said. “It just depends on what lineup’s in the front row or in the back at the time.”
The Bearcats, however, clawed back early in the second set by moving out to an 8-3 lead led by Brayden Auer, who pitched in a kill and an ace serve. Chadron slowly chipped away at the Scottsbluff lead, picking up kills by Eitemiller and Ashlea Kerr to cut the deficit to 11-10. Davis then sparked the Cardinals at the service line by serving up five straight points to lift Chadron to a 16-13 lead. The Bearcats were only down 22-18 later, but another big kill by Kerr and an ace by Eitemiller gave Chadron the set and a 2-0 advantage in the match.
Chadron raced out to a 5-2 lead in the third set, but the Bearcats ignited for a 7-2 run to take a 10-9 lead midway through the set. The Cardinals took advantage of three Scottsbluff miscues and found some breathing room shortly after with a pair of kills by Brennan and two ace serves by Maggie Earney to extend the lead to 18-12. Scottsbluff bounced back with ace serves by Auer and Savannah Menghini to close the gap to 23-17, but the Bearcats were unable to overcome the Chadron attack.
Scottsbluff coach Megan Burda praised her team for playing hard and not giving up after the Cardinals dominated the first set.
“I applaud them for coming back after that first set and taking it to them. I think we even took the lead in that second set right off the bat,” Burda said. “They just came out and played hard. I said ‘you just have to go out and play volleyball’ because in that first set we didn’t quite do that. We did do some great things. We served tough, we played aggressive and found the court a little bit.”
Burda added that playing a high-caliber team like Chadron three times is something her squad can use as a positive and build on as the season moves forward.
“It shows us a little bit about what we can work on, but it also makes us step up a level and play with them,” she said. “Hopefully, we can build on those last two sets and take them into Saturday.”
Chadron was led by Eitemiller with 11 kills, one ace serve and one ace block. Brennan followed up with 10 kills, one ace serve and one ace block. Kerr finished the match with seven kills and one ace serve for the Cardinals. Davis chipped in three ace serves and an ace block, while Earney finished with 28 set assists, an ace block and three ace serves. Jazzy McLain led Chadron defensively with 14 digs.
Scottsbluff was paced by Alexus Pinedo with two kills. Conner Ehler finished with four ace serves, while MaKayla Castro added three ace serves. Lauren Miller finished with seven digs, while Auer had one kill and one block.