CHEYENNE – Late into the first game Thursday, it looked like the Cheyenne East and Cheyenne Central teams were going to be locked in another dogfight.

Every time the No. 3-ranked Thunderbirds started to pull away, Central reeled them back in.

Then a service error sparked a 6-1 run that helped East close out the victory. They rode the momentum from that game to a 25-19, 25-15, 25-13 win at the Thunderdome.

“We played really well,” East coach Nicole Quigley said. “We had an injury last weekend, and were working to fill positions. Overall, we were consistent and super composed and didn’t make a whole lot of errors.

“That was exciting to see.”

East (23-4 overall, 4-0 Class 4A East Conference) lost sophomore Jenna Merritt to injury during the Casper Invitational. She was on crutches Thursday.

The T-Birds had to scratch and claw its way to a 22-25, 25-15, 25-11, 21-25, 15-10 victory in the teams’ first meeting Oct. 1. They trailed just twice Thursday, falling behind 8-7 during the first game and 1-0 in the third.

“At no point did I feel like we had any control in the match,” Central coach Maggie Hokanson said. “The first set was good, but we never could gain any control or momentum to get any further than we did.

“East played well, but we made a lot of errors and those killed us. We were passing way too high, we were misaligning on blocks and misaligning on digs. The little details hurt us.”

East senior Madison Blaney posted a match-best 11 kills to go with 10 digs and four blocks.

Going five games during their last meeting with Central (12-11, 2-2) helped the T-Birds learn a lot about their cross-town rivals, Blaney said.

“We watched a lot of film and really studied them,” she said. “It’s a rivalry game, and we really want to win and never want it to go to five.

“We had to be faster because they like to run their offense fast. We also did a lot better job of talking on the floor. Communication is really important in volleyball, and we did that.”

Senior setter Ky Buell dished out 19 assists, and recorded eight digs. Junior setter Ashley Marshall tallied 14 assists. Junior outside hitter Hailey Marshall added eight digs, seven kills and four blocks.

Seniors Sloane Danni and Shae Halls notched 15 and eight digs, respectively.

“One of our main focuses has been smarter decision making and moving the ball early so we have a better chance at going up against a single block,” Quigley said. “It was nice to see us start doing that and having a lot of people contribute.”

Central was led by senior Ellie Fearneyhough’s six kills. Libero Macy Palmer added 10 digs, while Reese Bradley chipped in with nine.

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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