CHEYENNE – Madison Blaney wasn’t excited about the idea of moving back to middle hitter when Cheyenne East started its volleyball season.

She played the position as a sophomore, but moved to outside hitter as a junior. Blaney liked playing on the outside, but was willing to do whatever Lady Thunderbirds’ coach Nicole Quigley asked of her.

It didn’t take Blaney long to find joy in playing in the middle again. It took her even less time to find success.

East is reaping the benefits of her standout play in the middle.

Blaney posted 35 kills and 35 digs to help the T-Birds go 3-0 and win the Class 4A East Regional on Saturday. Those efforts earned her Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.

“She is one of our go-to players and main leaders,” Quigley said. “She came out and was unstoppable. She led us all weekend in blocks and kills. When she is playing her best, it seems our team is playing its best.

“She has a huge influence on our success.”

Blaney made a brief return to the outside this season. Revisiting the position deepened her appreciation for playing middle.

“I was awful. My timing was off, and I couldn’t hit the ball over the net,” Blaney said with a laugh. “Outside gets all the iffy passes, and it’s really a workout getting to all those balls. I have to give our outside hitters props because it’s really exhausting to play out there.

“In the middle, you get perfect sets just about every time. You get so many opportunities for kills because blockers don’t always get to the middle quickly.”

Timing also is important in the middle. The game is faster there because set balls don’t have to travel as far to get to the hitter. Blaney had the entire summer to develop chemistry with setters Ky Buell and Ashley Marshall and adjust to playing middle again.

“She gets available really quick off the net, and her block move has gotten really good the past several weeks,” Quigley said. “We have been working on a faster transition. She sets up a block really well, and we have better defense because of that.”

Blaney has a .271 hitting percentage and has posted 77 blocks, both of which lead the T-Birds. Her 232 kills are second-most on the team.

Still, Blaney wasn’t completely satisfied with how she played entering regionals. She credits more one-on-one time with East’s assistants leading into the tournament with helping her play the best she has this season.

“This was the most consistent I have been from match to match,” she said. “Our freshman team is done playing, so coach (Dan) Box was able to come up and work with our middles. He knows so much about the position.

“I realized there were things I was doing wrong and things I needed to work on. I played a lot faster this past weekend, and that helped a lot.”

Others recognized for their efforts include:

Chance Aumiller, Graedyn Buell, Shaye Ellis and Haden Lamm, football, East: Aumiller, a senior, caught three passes for 126 yards and a touchdown in the Thunderbirds’ 35-14 victory over Casper Natrona County.

Buell, a junior, completed 14 of 23 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 71 yards on nine carries.

Ellis, also a junior, posted 10 tackles and an interception.

Lamm, a senior, added nine tackles (seven solo) and an interception.

Ky Buell, Ashley Marshall and Hailey Marshall, volleyball, East: Buell, a senior, dished out 76 assists to help the Lady Thunderbirds capture the Class 4A East Regional title.

Ashley Marshall, a junior, had 49 assists and 27 digs on the weekend.

Hailey Marshall, also a junior, posted 29 kills and 18 digs.

Boe Clayson and Kaden Lakin, football, Burns: Clayson, a senior running back, gained 249 yards and scored three touchdowns on 21 carries during the Broncs’ 57-6 victory over Big Piney.

Lakin, a senior quarterback, rushed for 249 yards and four scores on 13 carries. He also threw a 40-yard touchdown pass and snagged an interception.

Jordan Jones and Macy Palmer, volleyball, Cheyenne Central: Jones, a sophomore, posted 50 digs to help the Lady Indians place fourth at the Class 4A East Regional and earn a state tournament berth for the first time since 2015.

Palmer, a senior, added 53 digs.

Carter Lobatos, football, Central: Lobatos, a junior, ran for 213 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns in the Indians’ 20-16 win over Rock Springs. He also caught three balls for 35 yards and posted 16 tackles, including three solo stops, two tackles for loss and one quarterback sack.

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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