Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Anyone saying they knew exactly what to expect from the Regina volleyball team in its season debut on Saturday at the West Branch Invite was likely being less than forthright.
The graduation of four senior starters left the Regals looking to replace large pieces of production from last year’s 20-win team.
Four of the top five hitters, both setters, three leading blockers and top two dig leaders all gone from a year ago.
Coming in was a talented freshman class and a new coach in Lauren Hansen.
That’s a lot of change for one season.
“This was our first time in a game-like scenario and I knew that we had some great hitters coming up as a freshman but I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect,” Regina sophomore libero Laci Chambliss said. “Our expectation was just to do well as a team even if it doesn’t say that in our record. We really just wanted to work on our side of the court.”
In about an eight-hour stretch of nearly non-stop volleyball on Saturday the Regals answered a lot of the preseason questions and raised the expectations going forward.
Regina went 4-2 and finished runner-up at the seven-team West Branch Invitational that featured a round robin format.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Chambliss said. “Today was our kick off to this season. A big challenge was seeing how we worked together, we lost a ton of girls from last year and we have a lot of younger girls so it was really about how we bond and we’ve done a great job so far.”
Regina swept River Valley Conference rival West Branch in its opener on Saturday 21-19, 21-18 before dropping back-to-back matches to ranked opponents.
The Regals fell to 1A No. 15 Winfield-Mount Union (21-9, 21-19) and 2A No. 3 Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont (21-11, 21-18) before finishing with three consecutive wins over Prince of Peace (19-21, 21-12, 16-14), Don Bosco (13-21, 21-17, 20-18) and Wapello (22-9, 21-19).
“We had a really good first match against West Branch and we definitely had some ups and downs,” Hansen said. “Volleyball is a roller coaster but I thought we came back the last two matches and played really, really well.”
There were far more high moments than low for the new-look Regals on Saturday.
Freshman Reece Naeve and Kiley Devery were among the high points for Regina.
Making their varsity debuts Naeve and Devery led the Regals in kills finishing with 69 and 24 kills respectively in the six matches.
“I think it went really good,” Naeve said. “I am really proud of everyone, we just played as a team.”
Naeve was impressive in her varsity debut leading the Regals in kills in all six matches, collecting double digit kills in five of six while hitting .311 for the tournament.
The freshman had 12 kills against Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Winfield-Mount Union and Prince of Peace, 11 against Wapello and 15 in the three-set win over Don Bosco.
“The biggest challenge is just the mentality,” Naeve said. “When you play this many matches in a row it’s all about attitude.”
There was plenty to like about the performance from Regina on Saturday.
Junior Sydney Wagner was impressive at setter handing out 132 assists and Chambliss had 61 digs from her libero spot.
For a team filled with newcomers the Regals seemed in sync.
There was some good and some bad today but I think we bonded well together for our first tournament,” Chambliss said. “That was our biggest challenge and we are doing well with that.”
In a long day in which Regina played 14 total sets the Regals were at their best in their final three matches.
Regina rallied from a first set loss in wins over Prince of Peace and Don Bosco before a straight set win over Wapello in its final match.
“I think we played really well,” Devery said. “We came out really strong and we ended really strong which is what we wanted to do.”