QUEEN CREEK — It was a long ride back to Vail on Monday night for the Cienega Bobcats girls volleyball team after falling on the road to the Casteel Colts 3-0. Plagued with errors, Cienega struggled to string together enough big plays for a momentum shift to make a difference in the game, but the Bobcats still kept fighting until the end.
“Our blockers were a little bit slow at reading the hits, but other than that, we were just trying to stick to our game plan,” Cienega assistant coach Katie Lemaster said. “Just keep sticking to what we do best, and that’s pass, set, hit.”
Lemaster was filling in for head coach Mark Kornachuk, who had a family emergency and was not able to be at the game.
Things looked to immediately start unfolding in Cienega’s favor when a violation was called against Casteel on the first play of the game. However, the momentum would be short lived, as Casteel was quickly able to jump out to a 7-3 lead behind a string of aces off consecutive dig errors. Looking to keep things from getting out of hand too soon, Lemaster called a timeout in hopes of getting the girls to regroup.
“We talked about reading the block, and if the block was off then to find that gap and play the gap so that way she’s in position to read that ball,” Lemaster said, discussing how to correct the odd dig errors they were dealing with.
Unfortunately the timeout wasn’t enough to stop Casteel’s momentum. They continued absolutely smashing the ball to the floor to jump out to a 13-5 lead.
It looked as if Cienega was going to make a run midway through set one, but it was short-lived as Casteel was able to power ahead to a 19-11 lead, leading the Bobcats to call a timeout. The Colts were on a run, though, and continued to push their way to a 25-15 win in the first set despite a late surge from Cienega.
Set two was all Casteel right from the start. Strong defense helped it push its way to a 6-1 lead, forcing Cienega to call a timeout early in the set. Using the timeout to its advantage, Cienega was able to push its way back, tying it up at eight. However, a net serve on the following play would give Casteel the slight edge, and from there it took it and ran.
Kick-started by back-to-back kills, Casteel went on to stretch the lead out to 21-11 in set two to take control of the momentum. If any moment was the biggest game-changer, it was this run.
Cienega attempted to rally, but it was too little too late, as they fell to the Colts in set two yet again by a score of 25-15.
Knowing it was all or nothing at that point if they wanted to take home a win, Cienega took the court once again and gave it their everything. Things started out close, as the two teams were fighting for the lead early. It only took one monstrous kill from Casteel to initiate their final run, where they were able to jump out to an 18-8 lead off a slew of errors by the Bobcats.
While it seemed things were almost over, a block from junior Kiyah Hatcher gave the Bobcats a little more room to breathe as they were clinging to life in set three. Cienega’s continuous fight helped it make things uncomfortable for Casteel towards the end, cutting the lead to 22-19 and forcing it to call its first timeout of the entire match.
Cienega was looking to still fight, but the timeout killed its momentum. Casteel snagged the victory in set three 25-20.
“Our players, they never give up,” Lemaster said. “They’re going to play until the very last ball is done. That’s one thing I will say about our program and our players, they fight until it’s done. They’re going to scrape, scramble, play scrappy, whatever they have to do get the job done, they’re going to do.”
Cienega returns home on Wednesday to host Marana. It will look to advance to 2-1 on the season. The Bobcats are looking forward to getting a practice in on Tuesday before the game.
“I think we had a couple mental mistakes,” Lemaster said. “For serving, we served a couple balls out of bounds that should have been in, but those are easy fixes. It’s just dialing in that focus a little bit and then when that time is there, we need to just execute.”