LPAA title on the line Friday in The Pit
Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt.
Yuma High School’s volleyball team enters the final weeks of the regular season in familiar territory.
The Indians feel anything but contempt.
“We’re glad to be at home for these next few games,” coach Jenny Noble said. “Winning the league has a little more importance than in past years, because it guarantees your team a spot in regionals. Most importantly though, this game will give the winner the upper hand for seeding purposes and boost confidence going into the last few weeks of the season.”
The Indians have some huge contests during their current four-game homestand, which continues Friday with a key Lower Platte Activities Association contest against Wiggins, followed by the resumption of the non-league rivalry with Resurrection Christian on Saturday, and continuing Tuesday against ancient-rival Wray — which will conclude the league season for Yuma.
With all sincere respect to the Wray rivalry, the biggest of them all comes Friday in The Pit. In what amounts to the LPAA championship match, the Indians will be facing an upstart Wiggins team looking to end the Tribe’s reign as league champs.
Both teams are 6-0 in the LPAA entering the match, Yuma 15-1 overall and Wiggins 14-1. Yuma is ranked No. 1 in the Class 2A Top 10 (CHSAANow.com poll) and more importantly No. 1 in the 2A Rating Percentage Index. Wiggins is No. 3 in both the poll and the RPI.
The Indians are shooting for their fifth consecutive LPAA regular season championship. Yuma has won 39 consecutive league matches, and 45 of its past 46 in the LPAA dating back to the 2013 season. The current 39-win streak in league began against Wray in the final regular-season match of that campaign, after losing to Caliche a few days earlier.
Wiggins’ rise has been a couple of years in the making, reaching regional for the first time in several seasons two years ago, then making it to the state tournament last year and nearly upsetting eventual-champion Lyons, missing a semifinal berth in a pool play playoff.
The Tigers have carried it on this season, losing only to 1A power Otis in five sets in the Akron Tournament a couple of weeks ago.
“Wiggins is super athletic,” Noble said. “They got a taste of success last year at state, and they are hungry. They are quite capable of going deep into the state tournament again, and of course they are going to bring everything they’ve got when they come to town Friday night. It’s important for both teams, as we’ll both be able to see how we stack up against another top contender. It really will set the tone for state.”
Then Rez Christian comes to town on Saturday. The current rivalry began in the 2012 regional final when the Indians made an epic comeback from a 2-0 deficit with three straight victories to knock off Rez Christian on its homecourt, sparking Yuma’s current run of six straight state tournament berths. The two met in the 2013 2A semifinals, won in five sets by Rez Christian. The Cougars then swept Yuma in the 2014 championship match, but Yuma returned the favor with a memorable five-set victory for the 2015 state title.
Resurrection Christian moved up to Class 3A after that season, but the two have continued to meet in the regular season, with Rez winning win in Yuma in the 2016 season opener, and the Indians returning the favor on Rez’s homecourt in last year’s season opener.
The series returns to Yuma on Saturday, the latest it has been played in the regular season. Rez is not quite the power it has been, entering this week with 6-7 record and sitting at No. 18 in the 3A Rating Percentage Index.
“It’s always great to play Resurrection Christian,” Noble said. “The history that the two teams have just make it a little more exciting. Even though their record isn’t perfect, I expect the match to be hard-hitting and exciting on both sides.”
Then comes Wray on Tuesday in The Pit. The Eagles made it to the state tournament two years ago, winning one pool match and nearly reaching the semifinals, but have since fallen back on hard times, though not in too bad of shape this season, sitting at 2-3 league and 8-9 overall.
“Wray is pretty young and they’re getting better every week,” Noble said. “It’s a rivalry match, so it’ll be a fun one.”
Yuma has had plenty of time to prepare for the final stretch run in The Pit, having only one match over 10 days, a 3-0 sweep of 1A Fleming last Friday in the friendly confines.
It wasn’t an overwhelming performance, which was understandable as it came after major stretch that included a gutsy win over 1A No. 1 Kit Carson in front of a large and noisy crowd in The Pit less than one week earlier, followed by a league win at Merino.
Fleming has been a 1A power for years, and though the Wildcats have dropped off a bit this season, they still are good enough to make some noise in 1A before it is all over.
Yuma jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the firs set. Fleming battled back to get within two, 11-9, but the Indians cruised after that to a 25-13 win.
The Indians took a 6-3 lead in the second set, but the Wildcats took leads of 9-8, 14-11 and 18-17. Yuma ran off three straight for a 20-18 lead, but Fleming came back to it at 21. However, Yuma then won a pair of long rallies to take a 23-21 lead and went on to claim the 25-21 win.
Fleming refused to go quietly after that, as many teams do, battling to the end as the Indians hung on to claim the sweep with a 25-20 win in the third set.
“We had our best hitting numbers, best serve percent, and right near our best as far as our serve receive rating goes…but our dig percentage was probably the worst we’ve experienced all year,” Noble noted. “So there were some awesome things that came out of the Fleming match, but they were somewhat disguised by those dig errors. We look to improve in that area, and when we get all facets of the game clicking.”
Cody Robinson and Chasey Blach each had 20 kills for Yuma, while the freshman Chintala had 13 for Fleming. Taylor Hansen added six more for the Indians, freshman Elle Roth four and Ema Richardson two. Reagan Nolin had most of the assists for Yuma.
Yuma was good on 70 of 73 serve attempts (95.9 percent). Hansen was 20-20 with one ace, Nolin 12-13 with one ace, Blach 9-9, Roth 9-9, Robinson 9-11, Richardson 6-6 and Steph Sauer 5-5. Robinson, Nolin, Blach and Roth each were in double figures in digs, and Robinson was 18-20 in serve receive as the Indians overall went 42-45, setting up the Indians’ attack at the net.