Colville High continued its impressive and unbeaten run through the September high school volleyball season last week.
But the Indians (8-0), who haven’t lost a game yet, much less a match this season, lost standout middle hitter Aubrey Buckner last weekend at Clarkston to a possible season-ending knee injury.
Fellow middle hitter Chantel Nussbaum went down earlier in the week with an ankle injury.
CHS coach Missy Bennett wasn’t sure on Monday the extent of the 5-10 Buckner’s injury, but the consensus was that it was an ACL tear. Buckner was scheduled to see an orthopedic surgeon in Spokane on Monday.
The 5-9 Nussbaum went down with her ankle injury in a win at East Valley back on Sept. 25. Bennett hopes to have Nussbaum back this week, although she isn’t sure how severe the ankle injury is at this point.
While Nussbaum will be back on the floor at some point, Buckner’s playing status this season is much less certain.
Tough to replace
“It’s a blow,” a subdued Bennett said on Monday. “I feel very badly for Aubrey. She brings a lot of intangibles and experience to the floor. That’s a tough pair of shoes to fill.
“We are going to have to proceed like we won’t have her for the rest of the season.”
The loss of Buckner was hard on everyone concerned, particularly for her sister, standout 5-10 right side player and last season’s Class 1A Player of the Year, Joellee Buckner.
“Joellee and Aubrey are very close…understandably, she (Joellee) was a little off her game at Clarkston.”
Bennett said the injury to the junior happened early in the Clarkston match and meant that without Buckner or Nussbaum, the Indians had to do some scrambling with their line-up.
“We had some kids step up at Clarkston with Aubrey and Chantel out,” Bennett said.
Gabby Broden, a 5-10 sophomore up off the junior varsity, had to step in and play the middle. Senior outside/middle Jessie Glidewell also stepped in to the middle, with junior Tyra Brons moving to the left side.
Bennett conceded that she saw Colville’s season “flashing in front of our eyes” when Buckner went down on what the coach described as a “bad landing.”
Yes, Colville won three matches last week, but with the serious injuries, it was the best of times—and the worst of times.
Indians will have to play harder
Bennett knows she lost both depth and talent last week. Injuries happen and the Indians, until last week, had been relatively fortunate in that regard.
“We have been fairly fortunate as far as injuries are concerned,” Bennett said, adding that “we are just going to have to play harder and somebody will have to step up.
“It (injuries) change how we will play, but we still have our goals—we are still shooting for an unbeaten league season and a state title…those goals just got a little harder.”
At East Valley back on Sept. 25, CHS downed previously unbeaten East Valley (5-3, 5-1) 25-16, 25-19, 25-17.
Joellee Buckner led Colville with 14 kills and seven digs. Setter Leanna Carr had 28 assists and Jacy Vining added seven ace serves. Aubrey Buckner had three blocks.
In an impressive 25-20, 25-19, 25-2 win back home on Thursday over longtime GNL rival Pullman (4-3, 4-2), the Indians sent a message in that third game.
Pullman, with its proud volleyball tradition, had never lost that badly in a game. Colville simply got on a serving and hitting roll in that third game and the Greyhounds were powerless to do anything about it.
“To use a boxing analogy, I thought we won by decision over East Valley and by a knockout over Pullman,” Bennett said.
Junior Libero Jessica Wittmeyer was hot in that third game against Pullman. The 5-4 junior served nine straight points during one run and had four ace serves in that mix.
Colville had 19 ace serves in the Pullman win.
“I thought that our serving and our serve receive took Pullman out,” Bennett said.
Joellee Buckner had 14 kills in the Pullman win. Carr had 36 assists and Sadie Learn had five digs and three blocks.
In a 25-13, 25-7, 25-13 win at Clarkston on Saturday, Vining led the Indians with nine kills and 14 digs.
Colville is on the road this week. The Indians will travel to Cheney on Thursday for a 7 p.m. match. On Friday night and Saturday, CHS is once again in the 60-plus team Crossover Classic field in Spokane.
Deer Park will visit Colville next Tuesday (7 p.m.).
Colville finished ninth in the prestigious Crossover last October. Bennett would like to replicate or improve on that, but she knows that just got a little more complicated given the team’s injury report.
“We still have our goals there,” Bennett conceded. “It just got a little more complicated.”
Friday night matches start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday matches get underway at 7:30 and 8 a.m.
In this year’s field are Colfax, Ferris, Wilbur-Creston, Tahoma, Columbia River, Mt. Spokane, East Valley (Spokane), Sandpoint, Kamiakin, North Central, West Valley (Sopkane), Mt. Spokane JV, Skyview, Sandpoint JV, Brewster, Kennewick, Lewis & Clark, Chiawana, Ridgefield, Freeman, Gonzaga Prep, Prairie, Coeur d’ Alene, Mead, Grandview, Eastmont, Lakeland, Flathead, Eisenhower, Cascade, Lewiston, Moses Lake, Shadle Park, Northwest Christian, St. Maries, West Valley (Yakima), Central Valley, Cheney, Colton, Bishop Blanchet, Lakeside, Post Falls, Liberty Christian, Hermiston, Walla Walla, Auburn-Riverside, Bonners Ferry, Rogers, Camas, King’s, Deer Park, Pullman, Graham-Kapowsin, Davis, Tekoa-Oakesdale, Reardan, Bellarmine Prep, Heritage, University, Jackson, Prosser, Kellogg and Union.
In Colville’s pool are perennial Border League power Coeur d’ Alene High and second-ranked Class 3A power Prairie.
“We’re definitely in a tough pool,” Bennett said.
After their pool play opener Friday night at Lewis & Clark High School against Gonzaga Prep (7:30 p.m.), the Indians will resume play Saturday morning at 8 a.m. at LC.
Out of pool play
If Colville happens to win its pool (a possibility), the Indians will begin the playoff portion of the tournament in the Platinum bracket (16 teams) at Ferris High School. Those matches will start at around 1 p.m.
If CHS finishes second, they’ll be in the Gold bracket and play at Lewis & Clark High School. A third place finish would mean the Silver bracket and play at Rogers High School on Saturday afternoon.