Wildkats host Panthers; fall in three to Blue Devils, Cowgirls in week one

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Wildkats try to block Willcox senior middle hitter Mackenzie Welch during home opener with Willcox on Aug. 31. The Cowgirls left with a 3-set win. Valley Union also recorded a 3-set win over the ‘Kats in Elfrida on Aug. 29. Duncan hosts Superior on Tuesday,Sept. 5. .

By Raymundo Frasquillo

DUNCAN – Duncan welcomes the Superior Panthers Tuesday, Sept. 5 for its second home volleyball match of the 2017 season.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Wildkats await serve during home opener with Willcox on Aug. 31.

The Wildkats opened their initial week of competition with a pair of 3-set losses, to the Valley Union Blue Devils in Elfrida on Aug. 29 and to the Willcox Cowgirls (7-25, 15-25, 14-25) in Duncan on Aug. 31.

The first time lineup is still adjusting to being on the court together. Complete match statistics were not kept as student volunteers are noticeably absent. Sixth-year head coach Sandi French does not have any assistants either.

Last season, the Scarlet and Grey faced the same opponents, posting a 3-set win over the Blue Devils in Duncan and a 4-set loss to the Cowgirls in Willcox.

Four letter winners are back from a one-and-done 2016 Duncan volleyball roster for this season.

Three-year lettered senior Keeley Wagley, two-year lettered junior Katelin Stergion, and one-year lettered senior Hailey Villa and sophomore Kaitlyn Lunt are the returnees.

Also listed on the varsity are seniors Karla Flores and Natalie Jensen, juniors Delanie Claridge and Makaelyn Stergion, and sophomores Kaktys Garcia and Lynnie Nielson.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Junior libero Delanie Claridge receives a serve.

The junior varsity team has sophomore Hanna Hilton along with freshmen Lauren Basteen, Danae Calloway, Melissa Claridge, Janaye Eddy, Mia Hoglan, Kelli Metivier, Tiana Presley, and Kinsley Rapier.

Duncan ended 2016 with a 3-set loss to the Gregory School Hawks during the 1A state meet first round.

The Wildkats qualified for the meet with a 13-4 seeding record and 3.7692 rating for 10th of 40 teams. A 6-1 mark in the 1A East Region tied with the NFL Yet College Prep Eagles and the Fort Thomas Apaches, however, a second place finish resulted after the Eagles’ 14-2 conference record trumped the Wildkats’ 12-3 record.

Although the Apaches topped the Wildkats in four sets at Fort Thomas, the Wildkats prevailed over the Apaches in four sets during the region home pairing for the higher finish. Fort Thomas also bested Duncan in three sets during the regional meet.

An open gym and scrimmage with area law enforcement officers were held in the off-season while a four-team round-robin, 20-minute pairings home scrimmage with the San Simon Cougars, and the New Mexico Animas Panthers and Bayard Cobre Indians capped the pre-season for the Wildkats.