By JOHN McCALLUM
The Cheney volleyball team made the most of a bad draw at last Saturday's Lakeland Invitational. The Lady Hawks lost both matches in pool play, but rebounded to win four straight and bring home a first-place trophy in the Bronze Division of the annual North Idaho tournament.
Cheney drew a pair of upper classification teams to open the tournament: Coeur d'Alene of Idaho's 5A and Lewis and Clark of the 4A Greater Spokane League. The Lady Hawks played well in the first set but struggled in the second in their 25-19, 25-14 loss to the Vikings, but came within a point or two at crucial situations of upsetting the Tigers, losing both games by identical 25-23 scores.
“We were right there in both matches,” head coach Brianne Lowe said. “Just a few points here and there separated us.”
Cheney finished third in their pod, putting them into the Bronze Division. The Lady Hawks downed host Lakeland 29-27, 25-18, overcame some hitting difficulties to edge Priest River 27-25, 20-25, 15-10 and rolled past Bonners Ferry 25-6, 25-20, putting them in the division's title match where they got a stellar hitting performance from senior right side hitter Liz Gill to down Kamiah 25-21, 25-9.
“We got a trophy to bring home,” Lowe said.
Cheney's first-year head coach was pleased with her team's performance in matches that had them playing some good competition and covering some road miles as well. Cheney opened play at Timberlake High School in Spirit Lake 11 miles up the road then finished with matches at Lakeland Middle School and then the high school.
Individually Gill and junior outside hitter Ashley Seiler led the Lady Hawks offensively with .240 and .247 hitting percentages for the tournament. Gill had her best effort against Kamiah, notching nine kills in 14 attempts against one error for a .571 percentage while Seiler led the Lady Hawks in their near upset of LC with seven kills in 15 attempts and no errors for a .466 percentage.
Overall Cheney had 113 kills for a .183 percentage, a figure that could have been higher Lowe said if you toss out the Priest River match. Cheney served well with 36 aces total and senior Kendall Case leading the team with 15. Lowe said they were successful at times in serving well enough to push their opponents out of their offensive rhythm, but also sometimes served to the wrong people, such as a team's best passer, when there were other options.
Case led Cheney in setting with 81 assists, with junior setter Kinsey Pease having 15. Lowe said the discrepancy was because early in the tournament they used a two-setter formation, a 6-2, while later they went with one in a 5-1, moving Pease to a hitter slot.
Cheney had seven solo blocks and 12 assisted blocks for the tournament and added 111 digs defensively, with Seiler leading with 28 and Pease adding 20.
Lowe said the Lady Hawks continued to grow in many areas at the jamboree, improving in specific parts of their game that they focused on in competition. Right now the team is working on transitioning better from offense to defense.
“We keep showing improvements, and keep working on parts of our game,” Lowe said. “We're never going to stop growing.”
Cheney turns its attention to the Great Northern League with its first two league matches this week, Tuesday on the road at Deer Park (1-0) and Thursday at Colville in the Indians' season opener. Colville also competed Saturday at Lakeland, going unbeaten in pool play and downing Idaho 5A Lake City to win the overall tournament title.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.