The Cheney High volleyball team wrapped up a rollercoaster of a season with something they hadn’t had accomplished in years — a regular season district championship.
Pullman defeated Cheney, 3-1, (27-25, 22-25, 25-22 and 25-21) in both teams’ final match of the regular season, Oct. 28. The Blackhawks, who finished 8-4 in the Great Northern League and 10-5 overall, tied with Pullman (8-4, 15-7) for first place in the league standings to become GNL regular season co-champions. Although both teams share the regular season title, Pullman earned the right to host the district tournament after defeating Cheney twice in the regular season.
According to first-year head coach Heather Zorrozua, this was the first regular season title the Blackhawks have won since 1998.
“Winning a league title was one of our goals this year and we wanted to get our banner up in the gym,” Zorrozua said.
The Blackhawks competed in the GNL playoffs, Oct. 31, where they swept West Valley, 3-0, in the first round (25-23, 25-8 and 25-22), before Clarkston eliminated them, 3-1 in the semifinals (25-20, 25-22, 22-25 and 25-17).
In the Pullman match, Zorrozua said she implemented a new offensive strategy she developed in practice the day before. Although her team was successful in working in some of the new strategy on the court, Zorrozua said the pressure of the match made them fall back into old habits.
“It was senior night and there was lots of energy,” Zorrozua said. “It was the biggest crowd we’ve had all year and I think it rattled my girls a little. During the match they showed they had the ability to implement the skills they learned, they just didn’t have enough practice with the new system.”
Taylor Gould led her team with 12 kills while Peyton Stark had 32 assists. Hannah Lemelin and Rylie Pease recorded one ace each. On defense, Ally Jones had 20 digs and KD Skillingstad recorded four blocks.
In the playoff match against West Valley, Zorrozua said her team had a better time utilizing the offensive strategy, as well challenging themselves.
“The girls proved they were capable of implementing the new system,” Zorrozua said. “We beat West Valley in three, which is something we hadn’t done much of during the regular season (against other teams).”
Pease shined on offense with 16 kills. Stark had 31 assists and three aces.
On defense, Jones had 17 digs while Skillingstad and Gould recorded two blocks.
In the semifinals, Cheney found themselves against a familiar Clarkston team that defeated them two out of the three times during the regular season. Although her team battled, Zorrozua said Clarkston’s defense slowed them down.
“The scores were close, but Clarkston out defended us,” Zorrozua said.
Pease and Gould led their team with 12 kills while Stark had 27 assists. Gould also recorded two aces.
On defense, Jones had 18 digs while Marissa Peach and Skillingstad recorded two blocks.
Four Cheney players earned all-league honors. Pease was selected to the first team while Gould, Stark and Peach made the second team. Zorrozua was also named Coach of the Year.
With her first year as Cheney volleyball head coach under her belt, Zorrozua said she could not have asked for a better group of girls for her inaugural season with the program. She commended their passion for volleyball and willingness to learn new skills.
The Blackhawks lose only three seniors to graduation: Cheyenne Marchand, Hailey Bridges and Hailey Blazon. Zorrozua said she should have a solid core group coming back next year.
“I’m excited to see who returns,” Zorrozua said. “I can’t wait for next year.”