Lady Warriors Fall Short Against Stuart, 3-1
After Sub-District Win Against Potter-Dix, Leyton Loses in District Final
November 2, 2023
GORDON-- A long season that started with summer practices at the Cheyenne County Community Center while the Leyton High School gym floor was being refinished, ended in a District Final loss to Stuart Lady Broncos on Saturday, October 28. The Leyton girls and their supporters made the trip up to Gordon-Rushville High School, the neutral site where the match was played. A match that started out great for Leyton turned and slipped away, ending the Lady Warriors season with a 27-and-6 record.
After another great season that started with nine straight wins, the Lady Warriors went through a few rough patches, but were definitely one of the strongest teams in the Panhandle, regardless of Class. After riding a 10 match win streak from the latter half of September through the middle of October, the Lady Warriors were more than ready for the Subdistrict Tournament that started on Monday, October 23, in Dalton. Leyton breezed through the Creek Valley Lady Storm in straight sets, 25-to-7, 25-to-8 and 25-to-11 on Monday to set up the Subdistrict Finals match against Potter-Dix on Tuesday. The Lady Coyotes were a worthy opponent, but the Lady Warriors' athleticism and experience were too much for the Lady Coyotes to handle, and Leyton took the title in straight sets, 25-to-12, 25-to-15 and 25-to-15. Senior Trinity Beutler led the offense for Leyton with 13 kills, junior Shawnee Gamble kept Potter-Dix off-balance with 9 ace serves, and junior Zaili Benish had 21 assists in the match. After the match, Leyton Head Coach Natasha Haupt said, "These girls have done a terrific job all year, and they really work together well as a team. Great communication and court coverage. I'm excited and happy for the girls, we've all put in a lot of work together and now we have to wait and see who we play next."
Leyton soon found out it would be the Stuart Lady Broncos that they would be facing, a battle-tested 26-and-4 team that faces some of the best D2 teams in the state. The match was set for Saturday afternoon at Gordon-Rushville. A good group of Leyton supporters made the trip to Gordon and made their presence felt the entire match. The first set started great for Leyton, opening up with a 6-to-0 run before Stuart called a time out to stop the Leyton momentum and regroup. The first set turned into a battle of runs, with Stuart going on a run of their own and then tying the set at 8-to-8. Leyton then went on another run, and opened a 17-to-9 lead. Right on cue, Stuart fired back with another run of their own, narrowing the lead to 20-to-17. Leyton again surged and got to match point at 24-to-18. But Stuart would not go down easily and fought hard to narrow the lead to 24-to-23, but Leyton then nailed down the last point for a 25-to-23 first set win.
By the last half of the first set, Stuart seemed to get into a groove and shook off the early nerves and started playing very strong. This continued into the second set, with Stuart running out to a 6-to-0 lead. Lead by hard-hitters Lacey Paxton and Reagan Strake, the duo started unleashing board-buckling kill shots the Lady Warriors could not handle. Too many mishits by the Leyton girls stopped any potential runs for the Lady Warriors, and the Lady Broncos breezed through the second set with a 25-to-7 win. The third set had the Leyton girls looking refocused and sharp, and they opened an early lead. But Stuart climbed back, and tied the set at 15-to-15. The offensive explosion by Stuart was too much for Leyton to handle, and the Lady Broncos pulled away for a 25-to-19 third set win.
The fourth set opened with a close battle, but then Leyton seemingly got stuck at 10 points. Stuart started to pull away and built a 17-to-10 lead. Leyton slowly started coming back, but then Stuart got to match point at 24-to-16. The Lady Warriors weren't ready to throw in the towel, and finally went on a run. From 24-to-16, they fired on all cylinders on offense, and made it all the way back to 24-to-22 before Stuart finally got the match winning point, taking the fourth set 25-to-22. The 3-to-1 loss for the Lady Warriors was disappointing, but they had to get through a very tough Stuart team to advance, and gave them a good fight the whole match. Senior Trinity Beutler had 11 kills in the loss, and junior Shawnee Gamble had 7 kills, an ace serve and an block in the loss. Junior Sydney Fortune hit a milestone during the match, notching the 1,000th assist of her career. The Lady Warriors will lose standouts Trinity Beutler and Claire Watchorn to graduation next season, but the talented core of the team remains, and Leyton has a good number of talented underclass players that will move up and strengthen the team. Although the Lady Warriors fell short of a State Tournament bid this season, the future is very bright for the team, and the Lady Warriors should be back on top and in the running for the State Tournament next season.