Yuma High School’s volleyball team will make its home debut Saturday after an encouraging start to the 2023 season last Saturday.
The varsity is 2-1 as Sidney, Nebraska, comes to town. The matches will be held in the auxiliary gym as The Pit is not in use as it continues to get dehumidified. The Red Raiders opened their season Thursday, August 24, at Sterling. They went 28-7 last season, and have had their way with Yuma in recent years.
“I would imagine they’re still pretty good,” coach Jamie Robinson said.
It will be the only match for Yuma until next Friday, as the program slowly works its way into the season.
It was not so slow for the opener, as the varsity played three matches in the Kit Carson Fall Fling.
“A lot of teams start the season with a tournament,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of a gut-check because you’re not really in game shape yet.”
Plus, the eight players she took to the tournament played together for the first time just the day before, and that was for only about 30 minutes.
Yuma opened Saturday morning against the Wiley Panthers, which came one win away from reaching the Class 1A semifinals last season. It took five sets, but Yuma finally prevailed, 21-25, 23-25, 25-16, 25-9, 15-12.
The first set was tight as Yuma trailed 16-17, but the Panthers did enough after that to pull away.
Yuma rallied from a 12-17 deficit in the second set, but its last two serves went into the net as the Panthers escaped with the two-point win.
The Yuma girls found a consistent rhythm in the third set, taking leads of 7-1 and 14-4. Wiley fought back after that, but Yuma scored the last five points for the win, and extend the match.
It was all Yuma in the fourth set as it took a 13-5 lead on its way to the 25-9 win, forcing a deciding fifth set.
Yuma had all the momentum, but it was Wiley that came out with the first five points. Yuma settled in after that, eventually taking a 13-10 lead on its way to the three-point win, and the match victory.
Caddis Robinson had 15 kills, Alina Moran nine, Jailyn Mekelburg six, Emma Rayl five, Lauren Gonzales four and Bailey Nighswonger four. Moran had four blocks. Rayl had 21 setting assists, and Robinson and Nighswonger nine each. Chloe Smith was 18-18 serving with one ace, Rayl 17-18 serving with one ace, Gonzales 18-20 with two aces, Nighswonger 16-18 with two aces, Robinson 15-17 with one ace, Moran 10-12, and Mekelburg 5-5.
Yuma then turned around and immediately played fellow Lower Platte foe Wiggins. The Tigers have been one of the best in 2A the past few years, and look like they will be a serious contender again in 2023, handing Yuma a 16-25, 19-25, 9-25 loss.
Yuma played them fairly even in the first set after falling behind by several points. The second set as its best, leading 7-3 and 14-13, and were tied twice later in the set before Wiggins eventually pulled away
Wiggins then took care of business in the third set, winning by 16.
“We began to realize we could play with them,” Robinson said. “Maybe next time we’ll give them a good run for their money.”
Gonzales had four kills and Mekelburg, Robinson and Rayl two each. Robinson and Gonzales were in on two blocks. Rayl had four assists, and Nighswonger three. Smith was 11-111 serving with two aces, Rayl 10-12, Robinson 6-7, Moran 5-5, Gonzales 4-5, and Nighswonger 4-4.
Yuma ended up facing Kit Carson in the third-place match. The Wildcats are another consistent 1A contender.
The Yuma girls, though, closed the day in style with a 25-20, 25-18, 25-19 win. All three sets were well contested, but Yuma was able to get the job done down the stretch in each of them to get the 3-0 win.
“We were getting tired, but I told them we have a job to do and we’re going to get this done in three, and we did it.”
Robinson had nine kills, Gonzales eight, and Mekelburg four. Gonzales and Nighswonger were in on two blocks. Rayl had 12 assists, Nighswonger seven, and Robinson and Mekelburg three each. Rayl was 23-24 serving with two aces, Smith 13-14 with an ace, Robinson 10-11 with an ace, Moran 7-9 with one ace, and Elizabeth Mendoza 6-6 with one ace.
Yuma seemed to settle in defensively as the day progressed, displaying a strong presence at the net with blocks, and solid play on the back line in sweeping up balls.
“We try to make blocking nearly a daily ritual for us,” Robinson said. “As we get used to how the ball comes off our blocks, our defense can rotate around the blocker.
“I thought it was a good start.”
The Yuma High School volleyball coaching staff has come up with a solution to get playing time for the nearly 40 girls out for the sport.
Head coach Jamie Robinson said there will be four teams, with the C and D teams alternating playing the C-team match on game days. For example, the C-team will play Saturday when Yuma hosts Sidney, Nebraska, and the D-team will play when Yuma travels to Pine Bluffs next Friday.
She said that on home dates when the visiting team does not have a C-team, Yuma’s C and D teams will play each other in a regularly-scored and refereed match. When Yuma goes on the road and the host school does not have a C-team, neither of the C and D teams will travel.