Newcastle netters are one-and-done

Sonja Karp

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter


The 2020 volleyball season ended too soon for the Lady Dogies Thursday at the 3A East Regional Tournament in Douglas. The squad had set themselves up to give them the best possible scenario for advancing to the state tournament, however a combination of unexpected events and the return of unwelcome early season errors were too much for the team to overcome.

“It was a crazy week, and a crazy trip to Douglas,” head coach Keeley Anderson sighed. “Then a rotation mistake made the first set irregular and I think it was all just a little too much for the girls to adjust to in such a big game.”

To call their contest against the Lady Bison of Buffalo a big game on Thursday is a slight understatement, given the winner would qualify for the state tournament and the loser would end their season. After defeating Buffalo in four sets on their home court just five days prior, Anderson and her crew were feeling confident riding that momentum into round one of the tournament on Thursday.

However, on their way to Douglas, Anderson was removed from the bus at Lusk, she was absent from practice during the week, and in her hurry to have things in order, mistakenly filled out the lineup sheet for the contest which resulted in the Lady Dogies playing out of whack at the beginning of the match. 

“I had self-quarantined at the beginning of the week after having close contact with a positive Covid case and was awaiting a decision from the health department,” Anderson explained. “I tested on Wednesday and was negative so they gave me the okay to go. I guess they changed their mind.”

The Lady Dogies had an hour to adjust to the absence of their head coach, but then had another curve ball thrown their way when the team’s lineup ended up skewed as Anderson had flipped Hunter McFarland and Jaylen Ostenson which meant that there was one rotation where neither she nor Tiernan Stanton were in the front row. 

“I was in a hurry to fill it out, so that was totally my fault and I think that got them off to a wonky start,” Anderson admitted. “Jay and Hunter are both good athletes, but it hurt us not to have one of our middles in the front row for that one rotation.”

It was clear that the team was a little off their groove as Buffalo dominated them to take the first set 25-14. However, the Lady Dogies were able to turn things around in set two, though the score was close with Newcastle hanging on to pull off the 27-25 win. 

“We have battled all season, so I knew that we would need to play well to get another win on them,” Anderson nodded. “We didn’t want to get behind two sets, because that really makes it tough to battle back, but we just couldn’t really get going.”

Statistically speaking, the Lady Dogies struggled with unforced errors that had haunted them early in the season. Errant hits and only three blocks in the entire match really sealed the deal for the squad.

“There were a lot of strings of mistakes and it just seemed like the girls were not in the right headspace which is understandable given the circumstances,” Anderson sighed. “There was also a great deal riding on the outcome and it was definitely the most high-stakes game they had played all year.”

Though Buffalo was able to win the match in four sets, the Lady Dogies had a couple of players really step up and shine in the contest. Ostenson finished the game with 17 kills resulting from 43 attack attempts and McFarland was responsible for setting much of those up. 

“You could tell Jay was trying her best to take on that leadership role and do what she could to get the win, and she and Hunter are a good duo,” Anderson nodded. “Tiernan had some really good hits, but she just wasn’t getting set up very well to throw the hammer down as much as we wanted.” 

With the season ended, Anderson reflected on her first year as a head coach and is looking forward to the future of her squad.

“It was a unique year for sure with Covid and other issues that caused some confusion throughout the season,” Anderson chuckled. “I have a really good idea of what we need to work on for next year. It stinks that it ended this way but I learned a lot this year and I think I’ve got a better plan to help them reach their potential next year.”

The Lady Dogies are losing Honesty Olson, Caitlyn Pehringer, Alaina Steveson and Claire Beastrom to graduation this year, but will be returning the core of the varsity squad in 2021. 

“The seniors were not a big bunch but it’ll hurt for sure,” Anderson stated. “We will need to replace a setter next year so I will have to consider what to do with that loss. There’s potential with a couple of players but there are several factors to consider moving forward.”


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