The district finals are a familiar dance for Kelly Coughlin and his Gilmour Lancers volleyball team. The bus ride. The locker rooms. The court and…
The district finals are a familiar dance for Kelly Coughlin and his Gilmour Lancers volleyball team. The bus ride. The locker rooms. The court and introductions.
They’ve been doing it, and winning it, since 2006.
The lights were a little bit brighter for the Cardinal Huskies, the feel slightly different. It probably affected their game.
“We had to play our best,” said Lisa Shirkey, the team’s head coach, who has turned the program around with assistant coach Lyndsay Cummins. “You want to leave it all out on the court, and have no regrets.
“But when you struggle all night the way we did, you have those regrets.”
It took Gilmour just 59 minutes to beat the Huskies in straight sets, 25-16, 25-8 and 25-9.
“It’s just hard to know that it’s the last game of the season,” said junior hitter Kaitlin Bean afterward. “We still went out and we fought, but it just didn’t go our way.”
Bean and her sister Maddie knew many of the Lancers because the sisters play Junior Olympic volleyball in the offseason.
“It’s weird to see them across the net,” she said. “You’re used to winning with them.”
It was the last varsity match for Becca Klein, Kayla Neikirk and Tia Mastascusa, the Huskies’ three seniors.
“I know for us it was hard because that’s our last game we’ll ever play,” Klein said, holding the Div. III district semi-finals plaque. “But they’re a great team. I hope they go far. We just needed to come to play better.”
Gilmour won the match’s first point and took an 8-2 lead early on when Cardinal called its first timeout. The Huskies struggled with service receive, which meant the offensive rotation was never quite in sync.
For one period of the match, at the end of the first set, Cardinal outscored Gilmour 7-3 before falling. The second two sets were never competitive.
“We struggled with our passing all night long,” Shirkey said. “I thought we had some great defensive digs, but weren’t able to execute our offense the way we needed to, which is unfortunate because we did play so well in the semi-finals.”
“It’s sad,” Neikirk said.
“I wish I could have ended it differently,” added Klein. “Winning the CVC was awesome, and beating Berkshire was awesome, but I just wish we could have played better.”
Shirkey admitted Gilmour was the best team that Cardinal, who finished the year 16-8 and won a CVC Valley title with a perfect 10-0 season, had played all season.
“We did bulk our schedule this year, but I want to do that even more for next year,” Shirkey said.
This team has a lot to look forward to next year, too, returning hitters Kaitlin Bean and Alyssa Shirkey, as well as blockers Haley Adams, Kayli Staric and Caitlyn Lechene, who was lost at the end of the season with a knee injury.
Maddie Bean is a freshman setter who looks poised to lead the team for years to come. And talented underclassmen like Jordyn Schultz are ready to step in.
The back row does graduate, but Shirkey thinks there are pieces to fill the holes.
“We’ll be a strong team next year,” the coach said. “I’m already looking forward to next season. We’ll be back next year.”
“We’ll be back and ready to beat them next year,” Kaitlin said.
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