Kendyl Wacha

Kendyl Wacha (left) spikes the ball past two blockers during the Eastern A Tip-off Tournament.

Heading down the final stretch of the season, there’s a lot to like about the Sidney High School volleyball team.

The Lady Eagles have been continually improving game-by-game this season, they have played tough competition closely all season long and they have more home games than not to end the regular season.

That home schedule is of particular interest to head coach Jill Stanek, who thinks closing the season out on three straight home games will be nothing but good for the team.

More than that, she said it’s exciting to get to close out the season being at home.

“I think when you have a travel schedule like ours, with heavy travel at the beginning of the season, we don’t get the home-court advantage like all the other teams do,” Stanek said.

After an away game against Havre on Saturday, October 9, Sidney closes out the regular season with home games on Saturday, October 16, Saturday, October 23 and Saturday, October 30. Sidney will face Glasgow, Fergus and Custer County in those games, according to the most updated schedule on the SHS website.

Sidney did host the Eastern A Tip-Off at the end of August, and Sidney hosted Havre on September 17. Until the Homecoming game against Dawson County on October 7, the Lady Eagles were on the road for six games and two tournaments.

Having the last three games of the season at home is also good timing with how the team has been playing, as Stanek said the team looks to be on an upward trend.

So far this season, Sidney has played close, competitive games with some of the tougher teams in the Eastern A conference, including Havre, Laurel and Billings Central, for example. Specifically, against Billings Central, the Lady Eagles pushed the Lady Rams, who are the defending state champions, to 30 points in one set.

Sidney also went five sets in a road game against Lockwood earlier this season.

Playing these good, close games is a good confidence-booster for the team, Stanek said.

“I really try to push that when I’m talking to the girls. When you play games that tough against someone, it is disappointing when you lose, so trying to keep the girls focused on we’re right there with everyone, and the fact that we are improving every week, means that on any given day, especially with volleyball and the rally scoring, any team can be anyone on any given day,” she said.

All of the good play and close games is building to this last push on the season, and Stanek said the team looks good right now.

“Anyone who’s come to our games can definitely see the improvement that we’re making,” she said.

Stanek said Sidney started the season with a lot of players who hadn’t played a lot of varsity minutes, leading to errors. Since then, she said the team has come out looking better each game, and those errors haven’t been happening as much.

A few things stand out in the team’s improvements, one of which is the team’s defense.

“I think our defense is just playing outstanding right now. Getting a lot of touches that we weren’t getting at the beginning of the season, making more exciting plays and getting balls up that are allowing us to have more chances at attacks,” Stanek said.

Offensively, Stanek said Sidney’s hitters have improved too. At the beginning of the year, she said they were more timid and made more errors, but their confidence has since grown and has helped them be more aggressive.

The Eastern A Divisional tournament starts on Thursday, November 4 in Laurel. One of the things that will help the team there is the fact that they have seen every Eastern A team this season, whether it be at the Tip-Off Tournament or other games.

Stanek said this is one advantage that wasn’t available last season, since there was no tip-off tournament.

“We know exactly what we need to do and what improvements we need to make against those teams,” she said.

The ultimate goal is to make it to state, and to get there, Sidney will have to win four games or so, as the top four teams advance out of the divisional.

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