YHS volleyball hits the net today

The high school volleyball season is finally here.
The Yuma Indians open the shortened Season C campaign today, March 25, at home with matches against Wiggins and Wray in The Pit.
It will be the program’s first varsity matches since competing at the state tournament in November 2019.
“I feel like enthusiasm is high and we have a lot of excitement to finally have our season underway,” coach Jenny Noble said. “There is a lot of energy in the gym and I hope we can build off of the success that the basketball team had.”

The volleyball players finally got to begin practicing March 8, and now have their first matches will less than three weeks of practice. Practice began right at the same time the YHS girls basketball team went on a surprise run in the 2A playoffs, delaying the start of practice for those who also play volleyball until the middle of last week.
“With the success of the basketball team and making the postseason, we weren’t at full strength in practice for the first week or so, but we were able to really zero in on the fundamentals and introduce drills to our new players,” Noble said. “I was really happy with the progress we made each day. When the basketball players joined us, they stepped right in like they hadn’t missed a beat. We have some young players with a lot of potential, so one of the benefits of having volleyball after basketball is that some of those youngsters gained varsity experience already.”
The Indians have reached the state tournament every year since 2012, including several trips to the state finals and two state championships. The 2019 team did not get out of pool play, the first time that had occurred since 2012.
However, a lot of players return from the 2019 squad, and Noble said there also is an influx of young talent.
“We have some seasoned veterans that have a lot of games under their belts,” she said. “We also have some freshmen and sophomores that will likely be contributing from the get-go, so it will take some game experience to get a good flow going, but I’m confident that this group can come together and play at a high level. We have a lot of fire power up front, so if we control the ball well defensively, the sky’s the limit.”
The likely starting lineup will have senior Ema Richardson as the middle hitter, senior Jayci Mekelburg as defensive specialist, senior Shelby Blach as defensive specialist, junior Elle Roth as outside hitter, and sophomore Lea Richardson as setter. Also vying for time in the front row hitting/blocking rotations are senior Gissel Gutierrez, junior Meidi Reyes, junior Mia Dischner, sophomore Lyndsey Mekelburg and freshman Caddis Robinson.
“Our strengths include a solid core of juniors and seniors with varsity experience, athleticism and height in the front row,” Noble said, “a hardworking crew of defensive specialists, and some excited youngsters in the line-up who will be pushing our older kids every single day.”
She said some potential areas of improvement could be inconsistency on serve receive, and having some starters with no previous volleyball varsity experience, though she added that will not be an issue after the first match.
Yuma enters the season ranked No. 6 in the Class 2A Top 15 Poll (CHSAANow.com). Wiggins, one of tonight’s opponents, is ranked third, and Wray has received voters — and just came off a state championship game appearance last week.
The Indians are at the Kit Carson Tournament on Saturday, with the host Wildcats ranked third in 1A. Yuma is in the same pool as 1A top-ranked Fleming, and 14th-ranked Wiley.
The Indians’ Lower Platte Activities Association also has Sedgwick County ranked No. 12 in 2A, Merino No. 5 in 1A and Haxtun No. 12 in 1A.
“We’re going to go up against tough opponents every week,” Noble said. “We’re going to work hard and get better every day in practice. We’re going to make adjustments so the best crew is out on the court together, and hopefully through these improvements, we’ll have had a highly successful regular season and be ready to attack the state bracket.”
The regular season is only 14 matches. A team must play at least eight matches to be eligible for postseason consideration, unless a waiver for COVID-19 reasons is obtained from the CHSAA Volleyball Committee.
Regional will be reduced to 24 teams League champions will be guaranteed a regional spot, and the remaining teams will be taken from the CHSAA Seeding Index.
Only eight teams will advance to state, which will be a single-elimination tournament played over two days in early May.