Following the first state playoff victory in program history, Cherokee’s history-making season came to an end on Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Warriors fell 3-1 (21-25, 19-25, 25-21, 13-25) to Lambert in the second round of the Class AAAAAAA volleyball state playoffs, finishing the best-ever season for the Cherokee program.
“It’s huge for the program,” Cherokee coach Jamie Horton said. “When my assistant, Marissa Lakes, and I took the program over four years ago we had to basically build it from the ground up. Starting two years ago we started seeing some real progression and we saw progression last year but we didn’t make the playoffs. It’s great to see people in the volleyball community talking about what your coaches and kids are doing. You can see now when we walk in the gym people are really respecting us now.
Cherokee, which finished its season 23-11, knocked off No. 9 Mill Creek 3-1 (25-20, 25-18, 17-25, 29-27) in the first round. The Lady Warriors were led this season by junior outside hitter Faith Breitbarth and will return a strong nucleus next fall as a majority of the team was underclassmen this season. Lambert entered Saturday’s match as the No. 3 ranked team in the state and was led by its eight seniors including standout outside hitter Bella Tolone.
“Basically, Lambert came out and played pretty well,” Horton said. “We knew what they would do and their really good senior (Tolone), she played like a senior. My hats off to her because she played really well today and kind of took over the match. Overall, I didn’t think we played bad, they were just a little more experience and a little bigger.”
Horton said beyond the core of returning players already within the varsity program, the incoming numbers from Cherokee’s junior program is an encouraging sign for the health of the program.
“For the next four or five years, we’re really excited,” Horton said. “To go from where we were numbers-wise, to now having 24 girls coming up from 8th grade into the program next year, it’s great to see the junior program grow the way it has.”