By BRETT MARSHALL
SUBLETTE — Each season for an athletic team brings its own set of challenges and opportunities.
And nobody knows those better than a pair of Hi-Plains League volleyball coaches — one a rookie varsity coach in Cimarron's Kelli Buehler, and the other an experienced Satanta coach in Ashton Wenta.
In Tuesday's HPL quadrangular at Sublette High School, Buehler watched her team come of age by winning all three matches, first dropping host Sublette, 25-17, 25-21, then taking tough two-set matches from Satanta (25-21, 25-22) and in the final match against Elkhart, dispatching the Lady Wildcats, 25-21, 25-20.
It marked the first three-match sweep for Buehler and her team this season as they improved to 12-6 overall.
"It's just been a whole lot of new for everybody," Buehler said afterward. "New coach, almost new varsity players, new system. These girls have so much talent, but they're just now learning how to be leaders. They've been in the shadows in the past. It's been hard to figure out who's going to take the leadership role, but they're starting to figure those things out."
In the middle match against Satanta, Buehler watched her team trail in the second set until the Lady Bluejays knotted the score at 15-all. They could never quite pull away from the Lady Indians, but did manage to score the final two points for the narrow victory.
For Wenta, whose Class 1A school is the smallest of the 10 teams in the HPL, going 2-1 on Tuesday was as much a moral victory as it was seeing her team play closer to the ability she knows her squad possesses.
Her team won a tough three-set match over Elkhart, as the Lady Wildcats won by scores of 28-26, 19-25, 25-18. Then, it was the tough two-set match setback to Cimarron. In their final match of the night, against Haskell County rival Sublette, Wenta's squad produced a 25-19, 25-18 triumph.
"I was impressed with the way the girls played tonight," Wenta said. "It seems like sometimes we play down to certain levels of competition. If only we could play the way we did tonight against 1A competition, we'd be doing much better."
Wenta's squad, with a roster dominated by juniors and seniors, now has a 7-10 season mark.
"We got our heads into the matches tonight and I thought we had good hits, good passes and served the ball well," Wenta said. "The hits were there. It's the best ball we've played all season."
In Cimarron's final match with Elkhart, the Lady Bluejays fell behind early in both sets, trailing by as many four points in the first set and three in the second.
"They stayed after it tonight," Buehler said of her team's resilience in rallying in each set. "The emotions are such for girls, they're up and down. These are short matches and things happen quickly. Sometimes I think they forget just how good they are when they're doing things right. But they used their athleticism tonight and I thought we made a lot of progress."
Buehler (maiden name Small) is a hometown product, having played multiple sports for the Bluejays in the 1990s. She was a 1998 CHS grad, having played on the school's Class 3A state championship basketball team. She has been teaching sixth grade for the past five years and has been coaching at the middle school and junior varsity levels.
"It's a lot more serious at the varsity level, but I also want to make sure the girls are having fun playing," Buehler said. "I've coached most of these girls, but it's certainly different now. The girls have improved so much from the start of the season and their confidence has skyrocketed."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.