A challenging schedule in 2019 has finally begun for the Yuma High School volleyball team.

The defending Class 2A champions moved up two spots in the CHSAANow.com Top 10 from fourth to second this week before the Indians even played a game.

However, they finally have played a match, and probably will drop in the polls, after opening the season Tuesday with a three-set loss at Sedgwick County. It left the Indians 0-1 overall and in Lower Platte Activities Association play, snapping a 40-match LPAA winning streak.

The Indians served just 83 percent. Ema Richardson was 16-18, Gisele Gutierrez 9-9, Lainey Mekelburg 8-9, Steph Sauer 7-8, Elle Roth 7-9 and Reagan Nolin 6-11. Roth had 10 kills, Sauer five, and Mekelburg and Richardson three each. Nolin recorded 21 setting assists. Roth led in digs with 10, Jayci Mekelburg had seven, Shelby Blach seven, and Nolin and Gutierrez six each.

It might prove difficult for the Indians to maintain their lofty ranking this season as they are working in a new lineup, and also are tasked with navigating a challenging schedule.

That schedule continues Friday when Yuma hosts Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, in the Indians’ home opener. The Hornets already were 6-0 entering this week, “so they definitely have some game experience under their belts already,” Yuma coach Jenny Noble noted.

She added she hoped the Indians would have some of the jitters worked out after opening the season Tuesday.

“Pine Bluffs was pretty solid last year, but just couldn’t put the ball on the money defensively and therefore their offense struggled a bit,” Noble said. “I expect a tough match. Home openers always raise the heartbeat a little, and with players stepping into new roles, it’ll be a great test for us.”

The Indians cross state lines on Tuesday for another stiff test in Imperial, Nebraska, against the Chase County Longhorns.

It is the beginning of a tough 2019 slate.

Yuma has won five consecutive LPAA regular season titles. However, Wiggins is back as a serious challenger. The Tigers are currently ranked No. 3 in 2A. Akron is back on the rise, entering this year ranked No. 9. Holyoke might perhaps provide the biggest challenge, even though the Dragons have begun the season unranked, and Wray should continue to improve.

There is a tough nonleague match on September 14 against Limon, currently ranked fourth in 2A, and there are matches with Class 3A’s Brush, Sterling, Roosevelt, University and Resurrection Christian. Sterling is ranked No. 7 this week in 3A, University No. 6 and Resurection Christian No 9. There is also a date with 1A power Fleming, currently ranked third in 1A.

And then there is the regular-season ending tournament in Alliance, Nebraska.

“We have a schedule that’s definitely going to test us for the duration of the season,” Noble said. “That’s in our favor. We want to play tough teams before we make a postseason run, so we’re battle-tested and ready to take on the best that 2A can throw our way late in the year. We’ve got great potential, and I look forward to watching that come around as we work through the season.”