Indians host regional Friday
The string of district titles have come to an end — through no fault of their own — but the Yuma Indians can keep winning regional titles.
If the Indians do win their seventh straight regional, Friday in The Pit, they will return to the state tournament next week in Denver seeking another type of title that has been a bit more elusive — a 2A championship.
“There are more teams in the state than just those that we play in league, and every single one of them, including those in our league, wants their shot at the ultimate prize,” Yuma head coach Jenny Noble said. “Every team is trying to rise to the occasion and win it. Yes, we’ve had lots of success lately, but with that success comes the expectation that the titles are going to just roll in left and right. It doesn’t happen that way.”
The YHS volleyball program has won five straight Lower Platte Activities Association regular season titles. The Indians had won five consecutive District 2 championships, but that came to an end this year as 2A dropped district tournaments, instead increasing the regular season from 19 to 23 matches.
That allowed the Indians to set a new standard in the regular season with 22 wins, against one loss.
While that’s all great, the Indians have only one state championship, in 2015, during this current golden era, despite advance to the past four championship matches.
However, it first begins with winning regional.
In fact, that is the only way to make it to state anymore. Used to be, eight regional champs and four wildcards advanced to state. However, 2A has changed this year to 12 three-team regionals, with only the winner from each regional advancing.
Yuma has always advanced as a regional champ since 2012, so the challenge before the Indians will be no different on Friday.
“It’s always great to play at home,” Noble said. “We have the best student section, the best gym, and the best community support in the state — we thrive on that kind of energy. This town has become accustomed to successful state tournament appearances in several sports lately, so it’s always great to be able to play at home one last time in an effort to qualify for state, and if we do, hopefully we’ll be able to bring home a championship next week. That is the blatant goal.”
The Indians are the No. 1 seed in the regional field, boasting the top score in the Rating Percentage Index (RPI). That means No. 24 Peyton and No. 36 Crowley County will be coming to town Friday.
Yuma serves up the action at 3 p.m. against Crowley County. The Chargers then play Peyton, followed by the Indians taking on Peyton.
Two wins will send the Indians back to state again.
The Crowley County Chargers come to town with an 8-15 record, sneaking into regional as the last team. They picked up three wins last Saturday in a tournament they hosted, losing only to Holyoke 2-1. They finished eighth in the 10-team Santa Fe League, which was won by Rye, the seventh seed in regional. No Charger has more than 95 kills.
Peyton heads here with a better-looking record, 16-7, but lost last weekend to Crowley County while also going 3-1 in the same tournament. The Panthers finished third in the Black Forest League, won by Simla, which is the ninth seed in regional. Senior Skylar Botos leads the Panthers with 170 kills, while sophomore Riley Stearns has 163.
“Our focus will be on error control,” Noble said. “We’ve been doing a great job lately of minimizing our offensive mistakes, and it’s been paying off. Additionally, if we establish good blocking at the net and hit our spots serving, we’ll be able to disrupt their offense and make things easier on us defensively.”
Yuma is one of six LPAA teams in regional.
Wiggins is the fourth seed after going 20-2 in the regular season. The Tigers will host 21st-seed Heritage Christian and 33rd-seed Rangely this weekend. They will be looking to get to the state tournament for the second straight year after nearly advancing to the semifinals in 2017.
Holyoke, 15-8, is the 22nd seed and makes the long trip to third-seed Meeker. Sargent, the 34th seed, is the third team in that regional.
Wray is the 32nd seed after going 9-13 in the regular season. The Eagles are at fifth-seed Swink, along with 20th-seed Sanford.
Akron went 12-10 in the regular season, and is the 18th seed. The Rams are at seventh-seed Rye along with 30th-seed Dayspring Christian.
Sedgwick County, 10-13, is the 29th seed. The Cougars will travel to eighth-seed Vail Mountain, along with 17th-seed Dawson.
Yuma enters regional after a long lay-off, closing out the regular season October 20 by winning a tournament in Alliance, Nebraska. (They also had a “Foundation Game” at 1A power Kit Carson last Tuesday, which was a loss in four sets but did not count in the teams’ records or the RPI.)
“Even though there is seemingly a layoff, we had the foundation game against Kit Carson last week, and this week we are scrimmaging Akron, Otis, and Sterling (Tuesday), so we aren’t sitting around idle,” Noble said. “It’s been nice to be able to catch our breath a bit and have some really good, competitive practices. Our scrimmage this week will be a good one to get things geared up for Friday’s regionals.”