When Kaycee High School claimed their first set over Hulett, 25-11, it seemed clear a match victory was on their horizon. Hulett High School scrambled to collect vicious serves and well-placed hits, and the visiting Lady Bucs confidently claimed their 14-point victory in the first set against the team that knocked them out of the 2019 1A regional tournament in a surprise upset.
Kaycee won the next set too, but only by four points; and by the third, Hulett had surged ahead to claim their first win of the night, 25-20.
“Hulett was starting to play a little more relaxed, they had blocker rallies, and I think the girls were a little bit uptight and not playing as freely as they can,” head coach Kylie Richendifer said. “The suggestions I had to them was to just do what they knew how to do. Use their blocking footwork, transition quicker, call the ball sooner and then it will all just kind of fall into place.”
With those notes in mind, Kaycee rallied to win the fourth set, 25-20, completing an emotional comeback against their rival.
“They weren’t in it alone, they’re all in it together, so just know your teammates got your back,” Richendifer said. “I think that’s what kind of got us through that third set, knowing that maybe we weren’t going to come out with a three-set match win and that we’d have to work a little harder on that fourth set.”
The Hulett match marked the first real adversity the 2-0 team has faced so far this season. The team only served around 85%, where Richendifer generally aims to be in the 90s. And although the Kaycee servers laid plenty of aces into Hulett’s court — sophomore Sierra Kilts put down nine, and junior Braelyn Kozisek was just behind her with six — there were also a few that became easy points for the Red Devils.
Richendifer also plans to work with Kozisek and Kilts on their setting, arguably the most difficult position on the court — and perhaps the most important on a team packed with strong hitters.
“We’re just working on getting the ball a little bit lower, having our hitters hit a ball that’s lower and making it more consistent for them,” Richendifer said. “Braelyn does a good job mixing it up so we’re not always going outside or middle or right side, so she does a really good job there. There are definitely some things that we can make better and continue to improve, because our hitters are super standout, they can hit just about anything. So when we get more consistent sets I think we’re going to do really well offensively.”
Making those improvements is particularly important this week, as 1A Kaycee faces off against two larger opponents next weekend in 2A Wright High School (1-2) and 3A Buffalo High School (0-4).
“I think it being early in the season, it’s going to be good for us knowing that we still have so much room for improvement,” Richendifer said. “And going into this next week knowing that we have tougher competition, the things that we need to work on were really exposed, and that’s being quicker on all aspects of the game, offense and defense.”