Cayuga Volleyball Digs In for Deep Playoff Run

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

CAYUGA – The Cayuga volleyball program is hoping to build on the success of last year’s district championship and regional quarterfinals run. Unfortunately for the Lady Wildcats, they ran into the Iola Lady Bulldogs in the quarterfinals round and their season came to an end against the eventual Class 2A State Champs.

The loss seems to have motivated the Lady Wildcats in the offseason, according to Coach Magen Humphries.

“We started off a lot more advanced than I expected. We had several kids who really worked hard this summer and it has paid off. Our returners stepping up to the next level on their own this summer is going to make us better throughout the year,” she said

Coach Humphries said the returning Lady Wildcats include “… senior Grace Ann Kelley, who is an outside hitter and plays all around for us. Then, we have junior Morgan Grasch who is our middle blocker. Amber Karnes is going to be a newbie for us. She played her freshman year and then sat out last year. She came back this year and is going to be an outside hitter for us and also play all the way around. Our libero is Abi Winkel and she’s a junior as well. I have sophomore Peyton Sanders. She was outside for us last year, but we brought her inside to the middle this year. We have two sophomore setters in Sami Winkel and Hannah Bryant and I’m adding two more seniors who played JV for us last year. I’m also adding a freshman this year and that’s Grace Ann Kelley’s little sister, Megan Kelley.”

With some of the new faces on the Lady Wildcats side of the net, teamwork will play a crucial role.

“You have six kids and every kid has to play a role. Someone has to be in the middle, someone has to be a setter and then you have your defensive kids. It takes a lot to get a ball into play and to run an offense in volleyball, everyone has to play their part. For us, right now, we have several kids who can play all the way around. It’s getting kids who are in the game touching the ball all the time. Our ball control is going to be a little bit better this year because our kids are able to stay in the game and stay in the mix,” Humphries stressed.

Even with the most recent UIL realignment, Cayuga’s district didn’t change.

“Cross Roads actually beat us in the second round of district play and we had to have a play-in game to see who won district,” Humphries said. “I expect them to pretty strong again. I don’t know what Kerens has coming back, so I really don’t know what to expect.”

Changing gears somewhat, Humphries was asked how much importance she places on winning.

“It really depends on what part of the season you’re in. I try to harp on the girls about getting better each game. If we walk away from a game – even if it’s a loss – and we know we’ve gotten better at something we’ve been working on, that’s a victory in our books. Early in the season, I think that is what’s important and not necessarily winning,” she replied.

She added, however, when district play begins or if a team makes the playoffs, it’s go-time.

“It’s hard to get a win (in district play or in the playoffs), so you want to get them however you can. I definitely think in preseason, it’s good to work on that stuff and see how your kids bounce back from a loss. That, to me, is better than just putting “W’s” on the board.”

As far as her expectations for this year, the coach did not hesitate when she said, “I feel very comfortable in saying this may well be our year. We’re more advanced than we have been in past seasons. It’s usually the middle part of the season when we start to put free ball plays in and begin tweaking our offense. But, we’ve already been able to put some of those things in and execute them. I really feel like we are progressing and this may be our chance.”

HOW I SEE IT: I can’t argue with Coach Humphries. With the returning players from last year including All-State player Grace Ann Kelly, the Lady Wildcats are poised for a deep playoff run. Iola will more than likely be waiting for them in the Regional Quarterfinals, but this time Cayuga gets the upper hand and continues on to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland for a shot at the state championship.