Lady Devils volleyball goes 5-1 at Cokeville Invitational

Lady Devil Emily Freeland smacks a shot past a Star Valley defender Saturday at the Cokeville Invitational. Evanston won the consolation championship, posting a 5-1 record; their only loss was to Star Valley. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Looking to build on last season’s success, the Evanston High School volleyball team began their 2021 campaign strong, posting a 5-1 record at the Cokeville Invitational.

It was quite the turnaround for the Lady Devils, who posted a 1-4 record in this same tournament a year ago. That team was able to eventually right the ship, but not before making a few coaches nervous with a 1-4 start to the season.

“I’ve never been that tired on a Sunday after Cokeville,” said EHS head coach Tara Lawlar. “We played 24 sets. I feel like it was a successful weekend — not only with the outcome, but to give us a nice view of what we’re doing well, and what we need to get back in the gym this week and work on.”

The Lady Devils will scarcely have time to catch their breath this week, as the team hosts the Border Wars Tournament this Friday and Saturday. Evanston is scheduled to play seven matches, which will again test the team’s conditioning.

“We have some things to fix and recover before the Border Wars,” Lawlar said. “I was pleasantly surprised with our defense in Cokeville, and how scrappy we were — Evanston volleyball has been notoriously known for our big hitters and our heavy arms, kids who can terminate. Scrappy has never been a word used to describe us — I think we have some really solid back row players that are giving us opportunities on balls that in the past, we didn’t have.”

Lady Devils 3,

Bear Lake 0

The Lady Devils opened the Cokeville Invitational with a dominating 3-0 win over Bear Lake, 25-10, 25-12, 25-16.

“Bear Lake was a great match for us to start off with,” Lawlar said. “It gave us a chance to find our footing, and get comfortable with each other in a game-like situation. I didn’t see the nerves associated with the first match of the season — I saw the excitement and the giddiness to finally be playing somebody other than someone wearing an Evanston jersey. It was good for our confidence — we played good, clean, fundamental volleyball.”

Stacia Barker, Mia Barker and Emily Freeland led the charge for the Lady Devils, with eight kills apiece; Stacia finished with two blocks and an ace, while Mia had a block and an ace. Halle Brady finished with four kills and a block, while Kenzie Porter had three aces.

Lady Devils 3,

Star Valley JV 0

Evanston carried the momentum of their first win of the season into a match against the Star Valley JV, sweeping the Lady Braves 3-0 (25-14, 25-12, 25-21).

“Star Valley’s JV was stronger than we thought they would be,” Lawlar said. “They put more pressure on us offensively — that definitely highlighted some holes we need to be aware of. We didn’t connect as well in this match as I would have liked, and I think that was because [Star Valley’s] caliber of volleyball was higher than what we had seen earlier that day. We couldn’t get away with being not as fundamental. But we got it done when we had to.”

Lady Devils 3,

Mountain View 2

The Lady Devils closed out the first day of the Cokeville Invite with a five-set thriller against Mountain View, winning 3-2 (25-22, 25-17, 24-26, 18-25, 15-11).

“We could have had them in three — we had our opportunities to finish the match, and we couldn’t,” Lawlar explained. “Mountain View’s defense kept them alive. We need to learn how to finish, but I guess on the first day of game play, it’s probably OK. But I was very proud of how they finished in the fifth set — when it goes 2-2 like that, it can go either way. We served zones, and were very strategic on our serving. It was good for us to be pressed like that.”

Star Valley 3,

Lady Devils 2

The Lady Devils opened the second day of the Cokeville Invite against the team that ended their state tournament with a loss last season — unfortunately, with the same result.

Evanston jumped out to a commanding two-set lead 25-18 and 27-17, and appeared poised for the sweep. But as they did down 2-0 at state, the Lady Braves battled back to win the next three — and the match — 25-23, 27-26 and 16-14.

“Star Valley is solid, and I know that they’re missing their big outside hitter, so that’s scary,” Lawlar said. “They have a lot of weapons — their setter disguises what they’re going to set, so we need more effort on our blockers to try to read that.”

Lawlar praised the play of her back row, including libero Baylie Critchfield and defensive specialist Kaitlin Deru.

“I thought Baylie played exceptional on both days, and Katy Deru, same thing,” she said. “And Mia and Emily playing in the back row, it’s a pretty solid core group. There were some communication errors, so we’ll address that.”

Lady Devil senior Emily Freeland led the team with 18 kills.

Lady Devils 3,

Cokeville 1

The Lady Devils didn’t have time to ruminate on the loss to Star Valley — they were back on the floor less than an hour later, squaring off against host Cokeville in the consolation semifinals.

The Lady Devils dropped the first set to the Lady Panthers 25-18, then rallied to win the next three 25-17, 25-21, and 25-14 to advance to the consolation championship.

“The Cokeville match wasn’t our best effort, I think we still had some hurt feelings from Star Valley,” Lawlar explained. “But the girls were able to rally themselves and get the win.”

Stacia Barker had a huge game for the Lady Devils, finishing with 17 kills and three blocks to lead the team.

Lady Devils 3,

Grace, ID 1

The Lady Devils met Grace, Idaho in the consolation championship, gutting their way to a 3-1 win (25-17, 25-13, 24-26, 25-20).

“The final match was a good mental test for us,” Lawlar said. “We showed that we have some grit by finishing when we’re tired. Grace was tired as well, and they played well all weekend to get to that point. We have some work to do, but I was proud]d of how we were able to finish.”

Unofficially, Stacia Barker led the charge with nine kills and five blocks, followed by Halle Brady with eight kills. Mia Barker had six kills, a block and an ace, while Emily Sawyer had five kills and three aces; freshman Jaylie Critchfield also finished with three aces.

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