The 2017 version of the Custer volleyball isn't the same as the 2016 team that went undefeated in the regular season.
Despite losing all but one player from the varsity roster last season, the Lady Wildcats are determined not to let this season become a lost one.
Custer improved to 4-6 on the season with a straight sets (25-18, 25-18, 25-22) win at Douglas Tuesday night.
"Initially this summer when we were starting to come together for camp that expectation was there," Custer co-head coach Miranda Jaure said. "We really had to address that with the girls and say, ‘we’re a new team, we’re a new coaching staff. Their success last year was amazing but we have our own team now so we’re going to focus on us, our season and not worry about last year."
Jaure is co-head coach with Jill Hohn for Custer this season.
The loss dropped Douglas to 1-4 on the season.
"We don’t pass very well, many phases of our game are not very good," Douglas coach Jeff Nugent said. "We only average seven kill assists, too many serving errors. There’s a lot of basic stuff we’re not doing, and you can’t win with all these service errors, a lot of unforced errors."
Custer was in control of the first set, taking an early 10-7 lead. Douglas responded to cut the lead to 17-15, but from there Custer outscored the Patriots 8-3 to take the first set.
In the second set, it was Douglas that got off to the fast start, and it led 10-7 early on. Custer was able to chip away at the lead, eventually taking a 18-16 lead before putting the second set away with a 7-2 run.
Jaure said the ability come back shows that while Custer may not have the experience it did last season, the team still has a lot of heart.
"Last week we were down quite a bit with STM in our first set and we came back and dug out of that hole, which I think says a lot about them not giving up," she said. "We have been throwing in a few different rotations to see what’s best for us since we do have that new team, and I feel like tonight we really implemented what we threw in well and we definitely dug ourselves out of those holes.
"They don’t give up, which is awesome. They have that passion and that heart."
In the third set, Douglas took an early 10-9 lead again and from there it was back and forth, but errors from the Patriots when the score was tied at 22 gave Custer the extra push it needed to put the Patriots away.
"There’s a lot of stuff we’re doing now that are very young errors," Nugent said of the Patriots. "There’s a freshman out there, some sophomores, a couple of seniors and juniors, five of our six starters are gone. We’re looking at changes, developing kids on the J.V. so we’ll see."
Alyssa Stewart led Douglas in digs with 22, Jeslyn Jindra had eight kills, Morgan Smith had four blocks and Brynn Combs had seven assists.
Although Custer lost a lot of height, it still had a strong presence at the net with Leah Zacher and Renee Kirk. Jaure said she was proud of the performance of her outside hitters, but also in her offense's ability to get the ball in good situations.
"We have a couple of hitters who might not have the height, but certainly have the power, and we knew that coming into the season," she said. "That was partially why we were trying to implement a better passing accuracy so we could set those girls up and hammer it down. I’m really happy with what we have going on, especially our outside hitters."
Leah Zacher and Renee Kirk are those outside hitters and they were the focal point of the Custer offense. Zacher had seven kills and three blocks while Kirk added five kills.
Custer also got some help from the middle of the floor, as middle hitter Torrie Murray had seven blocks.
Passing accuracy was a concern Jaure had after the first nine games of the season, but she said Tuesday night they were able to correct some of the mistakes she had seen.
"We struggled last week with our passing accuracy so the last couple of practices we’ve really focused on that," she said. "I feel like we came out and executed that really well. That allowed us to set up our offense and get a lot more kills."
Custer takes on Lead-Deadwood Thursday on the road at 7 p.m. while Douglas will face Spearfish on the same night at home, also at 7 p.m.