Rocky Mountain and Lovell High Schools hosted a non-conference tournament on their home turf Aug. 26-27. Friday was pool play, seeding teams into competitive brackets that set up a day of intense competition on Saturday. The junior varsity teams played on the Lovell courts while the varsity teams played on the courts at Rocky Mountain High School.
Lovell’s Lady Bulldogs varsity volleyball team walked away with their first plaque of the season after winning five out of six matches played in the tournament and giving fans a taste of the excitement to come this season.
On Friday they took on Meeteetse for an easy win of 25-8 in both games.
Their second match against Shoshoni was more of challenge with Shoshoni winning the first game 25-19. The Lovell girls came back with a 25-19 win in their second game, but fell short in the third game 15-12, losing the overall match to Shoshoni.
Hitting wise, the power was spread evenly among the Lovell players with three or four kills each, but none really shining.
“It was almost like we never really got into our offensive mind set,” said Coach Stormy Jameson. “We tipped a lot. It was almost like we were too timid and we didn’t really swing at it and hit the ball hard like we should have to get a kill.”
The girls rose up and became a force to be reckoned with in their third match of the day against Burlington, winning both games 25-12 and 25-8. Super hitter Erin Robertson set the pace with seven kills. Megan McClure followed with 10 assists and three aces.
Saturday was a new day and it was all about attitude. The girls started the day with two easy wins in a match with Ten Sleep, 25-17 and 25-10.
The next match was more of a challenge against Greybull, a team that had gone 3-0 in pool play on Friday.
“Our girls were really focused for that game,” said Jameson. “Erin was unstoppable and had 10 kills. At one point Greybull’s coach readjusted their whole defense just to try to stop her. They even put four girls on the side of the court that Erin was hitting on and they still couldn’t stop her.”
The sole setter for the team, Megan McClure, was setting well and the team worked together like poetry in motion to earn wins over Greybull in both games, 25-17 and 25-14.
In the final game the team faced Shoshoni again for the championship. Determined not to give it away to Shoshoni a second time, the girls switched into high gear for two hard fought wins 27-25 and 25-20.
Overall, Coach Jameson was pleased with the hard work the girls put into winning the tournament.
“Leanne Winterholler, libero, had a great all-around tournament passing and digging,” said Jameson. “She goes unnoticed a lot because passers and diggers don’t get the glory that the big hitters do, but we would be hurting if it wasn’t for her. She’s the backbone of our defense. Jodi and Chelsey, our outside hitters, were really consistent the whole weekend. Megan being our only setter did a really great job, too. Last year she really struggled with confidence, but this year she’s already so much more confident and really taking on the varsity setter role. She’s really taking charge.”
The Lovell team will face off with Greybull once again on Thursday in the first conference game of the season played on their home court in Lovell at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. Jameson expects Greybull to play with a lot of heart.
“They work really hard,” she said. “They definitely want to beat us, so we will have to play well to beat them.”
The team will play in the Wyoming-Montana Duals tournament this weekend that will be held in Worland on Sept. 2 and 3.
Jameson may be looking at a winning formula that could take her team all the way to state and she has no plans to change it.
“Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” she said. “Right now we’re doing good and we plan to keep it that way.”
Worthy of note, the Lovell JV team placed second to Shoshoni’s JV team in a similarly structured tournament played in Lovell.
The Rocky Mountain High School varsity team took a big blow this week when their star hitter Kallee Jo Wilson suffered an injury that kept her out of the tournament. The team struggled the first day of the tournament as they readjusted to their new positions and were overpowered by the other teams.
On Saturday, they started to get a bit of a second wind in their match with Shoshoni but fell short of winning both games 27-25 and 25-21.
In their second match with Burlington the girls lost some mental focus and took a considerable loss in both games, 25-9 and 25-5.
“It kind of took the air out of their sails for a little while,” said Coach Carol McMillin. “We didn’t find out until Tuesday that Kallee Jo wouldn’t be able to play, so we ended up having to move all of our players around in practice on Wednesday.”
Brianna Hocker had been training as an outside hitter and she had to move to middle hitter. Mandee Leonhardt, who had been training as a right side hitter and second setter for the team, moved to the outside hitter position. Isabell Gurrola had been training as a middle hitter but was out with an injury the previous week and was just getting back into the swing of things. This week kept her position in the middle but wasn’t able to practice much with the new positions. Shauna Loman and Hannah Winland moved up from JV to cover spots.
“Kallee is just a very strong, dedicated girl and we missed her on the team,” said McMillin. “It’s a hurdle for sure but true athletes find a way around hurdles.”
Wilson received medical treatment on Wednesday and, if the treatment is successful, may be able to return to practice as soon as Monday.
In the meantime, McMillin has a “plan B” in place in case Wilson is unable to return to the team in time for their first conference game of the season which takes place on Friday at 2, 3 and 4 p.m.
In the event that Wilson is unable to return, McMillin expects to see the remaining girls work really hard this week to find their best positions in the absence of their key player.
“Girls will find themselves stepping into leadership roles that they haven’t done before,” she said.
Their first conference game of the season will be with Riverside on Friday. Since that team was not at the tournament, the Grizzly varsity girls will be faced with yet another uncertainty as they go into practice this week. The game will be played in Cowley on the Rocky Mountain High School courts.
“Skill wise these girls are very capable of playing with all of the teams in the conference, so we’re going to work on confidence and mental toughness,” said McMillin.
By Patti Carpenter