The last time the Eads Volleyball program got out of Districts was in 2013 when they qualified for state for the last time. Since then, the Eagles have struggled to either get by Cheyenne Wells or McClave as Kit Carson has continued to dominate the district since 2012 when Eads beat the Cats in the District 2 championship. Based on the results from the regular season, it looked like Eads would be left out in the cold for another year. Based on the Eagle lethargy in the first two sets in the do-or-die match against Cheyenne Wells on Friday at the Wellness Center in Lamar, it looked like Eads would be dribbling a basketball next week.
But, no one counted on Coach Chelsea Davis saying just the right thing that set the multiple seniors on the team into overdrive and on a mission. Eads would take the final three sets against Cheyenne Wells, including a nail-biting 17-15 final set win, and advance to the Regional tournament for the first time since 2013.
According to Coach Davis, she was stumped by the way her team approached Cheyenne Wells in the qualifying match. “We handled Granada in 3. Played smart and hard as possible against that amazing KC team. We were able to rest our legs and mentally prepare for Cheyenne Wells. We were feeling strong pregame feelings of needing to give the Tigers paybacks for not only the match 3 weeks ago, but also from districts last year. But, as the match began, we totally didn’t show up and looked defeated going into set 3.”
That’s when Davis said she looked to her seniors. “I called on the seniors asking if they were ready for their high school careers to be over and how could they let CW take it away from them so easily? Somehow, they found it within themselves and suddenly came alive. I’ve never seen seniors Lauren Spady, Emily Gyurman, Hadlie Rittgers, Kaylee
Wilson and Brooklynn Jones more determined and so vocal. Thankfully everyone else jumped on board and the fire was lit.”
Eads did easily defeat Granada in three sets in scores of 25-12, 25-9, and 25-8. Ally Spady and Colby Stoker grabbed the bulk of the service points for the Eagles.
Eads then played Kit Carson and gave them a decent challenge in two of the three games. But the Wildcats are just too dominant at this point and have numerous weapons that are hard to defend overall. The young Spady continued to have effectiveness from the service line in that contest, but Eads would lose in scores of 25-16, 25-9, and 25-16.
The loss forced the do-or-die game with Cheyenne Wells. The loser would be going home to pick up the basketball.
Against Cheyenne Wells, early, Eads was lethargic and played not to lose instead of putting themselves completely into the competition. They were letting the Tigers dictate the pace and results of the contest. That is, until the seniors stepped up and decided to fight.
Davis indicated, “These seniors have never experienced making it out of District volleyball in their high school careers, so this win was extra special.”
Eads looked completely different in Set 3 as players like Hadlie Rittgers, Lauren Brown and Lauren Spady played amazing defense picking up almost every hit or tip CW attempted. Setters Ally Spady and Rhealie Rittgers scrambled and slid all over the court assisting successful attacks to the hitters. The Eads girls chased down any imperfect pass and fought for each point.
The young Spady, who had been very hot at the service line all day, served 5 points to get the Eagles back to within 2 points (17-19) in the third set before the Tigers took the serve. Eads got the side out. Eads then sent Brown to the back line. She is an impressive server as she recently served out a whole set. Brown served 4 more points and gave Eads the on- point advantage. Powerful hits from Jones and Wilson up front brought Hadlie Rittgers back to serve the last 3 points needed to win that third set.
Getting that key win and dodging the end of their season, the Eads girls were consumed with emotion and positively put it into the way they played. With the excitement and confidence spreading to the bench and spirit turned up from the crowd, the Eagles took off and didn’t look back! Service runs were made by Ally Spady, Brown, and freshman Rhaelie Rittgers in Set #4 winning 25-12 over the shocked Tiger players.
“We didn’t have to remind the seniors what they needed to do in the final set to 15,” stated Davis. They told the rest of the team to push through giving all they had left. The final set literally almost went point for point with both teams making silly errors, missing serves, and committing net violations or setting errors.
A very nervous freshman, Rhaelie Rittgers, ended the roller coaster by confidently serving points 16 and 17.
Although Eads has now made it to the next step along the way, they certainly still have an uphill march. They enter Region 3 as the #3 out of District 2 which puts them in the Pool with #1 out of District 2, Kit Carson, and #2 out of District 3, Walsh. Eads lost to both teams in the season. They will have to beat Walsh for sure if they have any hope to advance.
But Regional Tournaments often times see the most unexplained things happen when teams who are heavily favored to win sometimes overlook their opponents or bad luck falls at their feet. In this case, Eads just has to show up and play with the same do-or-die attitude they had on Friday.
Davis put it best, “At this point we literally play in hopes to play again not wanting this season to end.”
Eads Lady Eagles qualified for the Regional Tournament coming up this weekend. Pictured are: (front) Koree Ellenberger (mgr), Rhaelie Rittgers, Hadlie Rittgers, Ally Spady, Samantha Courkamp (mgr.) (back) Ty Lin Williams (asst. coach), Lauren Brown, Colby Stoker, Kaycee Ellenberger, Kaylee Wilson, Lauren Spady, Head Coach Chelsea Davis, Jessica Millspaugh (asst. coach), Emily Gyurman, Brooklynn Jones.
Photo Credit Wilson Photography