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Hoffman speaks to Cardinals turnaround season

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The Chadron High School Volleyball ended its season during the last weekend in October with a 3-2 loss to Ogallala in the sub-district finals, though that loss came after an amazing 16-game winning streak that brought the Cardinals out of a 7-12 funk they had going into October and gave them a 23-13 overall record.

Coach Blakelee Hoffman said she looks back at September, knowing at that time the team could’ve gone either way. “We could’ve digressed and continued losing, or we could’ve flipped like we did and just continued wining. A lot of the time you get that taste of winning and beating a team that maybe you weren’t expecting to beat, the confidence and resilience shows up more.”

As part of their regular season streak, the Cardinals toppled any team they lost to early in the season. Hoffman said the first games against Alliance and Scottsbluff were not ones they expected to lose. When they came back and beat the Bearcats and Bulldogs, Hoffman said it helped the girls know they had the ability to beat them.

Among other highlights to the season were senior libero Jacey Garrett breaking the Class C1 state record for number of digs in a season — 712 compared to the previous 687 — and Hoffman’s 100th win. Hoffman said she knew what her record was going into the season, but didn’t know she’d gotten her 100th until she was told by the players.

Hoffman also noted sophomore Jaleigh Hoffman had a good year, racking up 807 assists. “Only being a sophomore and stepping into that starting center position, she had a fabulous year,” Hoffman said. “That’s a tough thing to do at that age, but she worked so hard during the off-season . . . working on her jump setting and really trying perfect her game. The fact we have her for another two years to be a setter is pretty unique. That doesn’t happen a lot.”

The team will bid farewell to seniors Garrett, Tatum Bailey and Macey Daniels this year. Hoffman said they will difficult to replace “especially Jacey, because she’s been such a huge part of the team the last four years.” She’s been asked who will replace Garrett, and at this time she doesn’t know. She hopes the younger players look to Garrett and see what she did to become so good.

About Daniels, Hoffman noted she’s “not one to get excited. She’s pretty calm and chill out on the court. But, that’s a leadership role a lot of people don’t think about. That sense of calm. When it’s a tense moment, she doesn’t’ show she’s getting rattled by any means, and that’s a good quality for a leader to have.”

High season stats for Daniels were her 278 digs and 297 receptions.

Hoffman spoke to Bailey’s resilience, having been out during the first part of the 2020-21 season due to a stress fracture. “When she came back, we could tell she had lost some strength. She slowly chad to come back, and she struggled a little at the beginning. That was expected, but the way she came back and just dominated was so cool to see. She was one I don’t think a lot of teams expected to just completely dominate.”

Bailey had 428 kills for the season, and 47 aces.

Looking at next year’s prospects is something Hoffman thinks about a lot at the end of the season, but doesn’t truly know how things will shape up at this point. There’s plenty of talent in the sophomores, she added, and she expects a lot out of them next year. A couple she definitely sees stepping up are Kenli Boeselager, Kaylee Sprock and Ashlyn Morrison. “All three of them are very talented and I think they’ll see a ton of playing time next year. They could definitely wreak some havoc on some teams, once they get some time in the off-season to work together some more.”

The eighth grade class is already expressing interest in joining the team next year, Hoffman said, and she expects to have at least 10 new members. It could get interesting, however, as it could mean three sets of sisters on the team.

“If you would’ve told me back in June that we would have a 16-game winning streak, I don’t know if I would’ve believed that,” Hoffman said. “I was pleasantly surprised with how our girls made that turnaround, and that just shows the kind of team we had. I’m very proud of every one of those girls.”

She further added that, at sub-districts, there were many who felt Chadron and Ogallala were the two best teams in the subs. “Next year, hopefully we’re hosting.”

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