Lovell falls to Wright in title game

It wasn’t exactly what the Lady Bulldogs had hoped for, but a second place finish at State is an honor that many other teams in the state didn’t even come close to. After winning all of their tournament matches leading up the championship game with Wright, the Lady Bulldogs fell short of their dream to walk away from the state tournament with the first place trophy.

“They just came out and out-played us,” said Coach Stormy Jameson.

The three-day tournament, which was held in Casper, began on Thursday and ended in a championship match between Lovell and Wright on Saturday.

The girls played their first game of the tournament against Southeast on Thursday. Southeast came in as the fourth seed in their district. Lovell won all three games 25-16, 25-20 and 25-20.

Lovell teammates Leanne Winterholler and Erin Robertson comfort each other after the Lady Bulldogs lost to Wright in the title match at the state volleyball tournament in Casper Saturday.

“At the state level there’s not really a warm-up game,” explained Jameson. “It wasn’t an easy game, but I think it was a good game for us to get our nerves out and to get first game jitters out of the way. It let us get used to the court and the big stadium.”

Jameson felt that Southeast made a lot of errors that they wouldn’t normally make.

“They were a good team and they fought really hard, but you could tell they were a better team than how they played that day,” said Jameson. “It seemed like they had first game jitters.”

Jodi Walker had three kills, one ace, three blocks and 15 digs. Chelsey Ellis had three kills, one ace, one block and eight digs. Erin Robertson had 11 kills, three aces, eight digs and 11 blocks. Miranda Griffis had two kills, one ace, four digs and one block. Emilee Reasch had three kills and five blocks. Megan McClure had 20 assists and Leanne Winterholler had 22 digs.

“Going in as the number one seed and getting to play the number four seed from that side did give us sort of a warm up game before playing against the bigger teams,” said Jameson.

The girls’ second game in the tournament was against Big Horn. Lovell won all three games 25-19, 25-21 and 25-16.

“We played so well all the way around in that game,” said Jameson. “Big Horn had beat us earlier in the year at their tournament, and they beat us last year in the state tournament. So we knew there was a bit of a history there and we knew that this year we had an edge over them. That game was the most fired up I’ve seen us, the most intense and enthusiastic all year. We just played our hearts out that game. It was a great game for us.”

Walker had seven kills, one block and 17 digs. Ellis had nine kills, one ace, two blocks and 16 digs. Robertson had 15 kills, five digs and five blocks. Griffis had three kills, two aces, three digs and three assists. Reasch had seven kills and five blocks. McClure had one ace, four digs and 31 assists. Winterholler had one ace and 22 digs. Shyann Wilske had nine digs.

“It was unbelievable to even watch that game,” said Jameson. “Erin (Robertson) got a kill almost every time she touched the ball. They tried double blocking and triple blocking her, but they just couldn’t stop her. She was just on fire.”

“Chelsey (Ellis) had a lot more kills than she had been getting lately and her kills were always at big moments in the game.”

“Emily Reasch this whole tournament did not play like a freshman,” said Jameson. “Emily was completely confident in herself in every game. She just really stepped up every game.”

In the championship game the girls faced off with Wright.

Wright had five returning starters and a team full of players who had been to the state tournament before. Last year they lost to Rocky in the title match and they played like they were determined to not let that happen again. Lovell fell to Wright all three games 25-12, 25-21 and 25-12.

“We did not play well in our game against Wright,” said Jameson. “I thought we made a lot more errors than we normally make. I thought we played a little too timid instead of more aggressive. You can tell we were just nervous. I thought we went in with the confidence to beat them but that first game they just jumped on us eight to nothing and it set the tone for the whole game.”

“We didn’t play good, but I’m not going to take anything away from Wright,” said Jameson. “They played their hearts out that game and had we played better, I’m still not sure we would have beat them just because Wright was playing that well. That day they were a better team than us. Could we have beaten them any other time? Maybe. But that day they were really better than us.”

Lovell had swept every one they played up until this point. Jameson felt like the girls just gave Wright the first game but they came back strong in the second game trying to minimize their errors as much as possible. But they weren’t quite aggressive enough to overcome the momentum that Wright had set for themselves.

“Wright was just ready to go,” said Jameson. “They set the tone and started with momentum and never let us get any momentum going. I felt like we were completely out of sync the whole game. Any time we’d try to get a little momentum on our side, they would take it right back.”

Walker had three kills, eight digs and one block. Ellis had 12 digs and three kills. Robertson had 10 kills, 10 blocks and four digs. Griffis had one ace and eight digs. Reasch had five kills and three blocks. McClure had 20 assists, seven digs and one block. Winterholler had 19 digs.

“This senior group is leaving huge shoes to fill for next year,” said Jameson. “They definitely made their mark on our program and our volleyball team. I love all of these girls. I could not have chosen a better twelve to be on this team. I wish there were 12 positions on the court so that all of them could have played the whole game, every game.”

“Schuylar Davis improved all season long and kept working hard and never had a bad attitude. Miranda Griffis was always full of enthusiasm and heart. I have never seen Jodi Walker in a bad mood. Erin was our team ‘clown’ who always quoted movies or cracked jokes to cheer everyone up and Leanne is one of the hardest workers I have coached. It didn’t matter if we were just stretching and warming up, she was doing her best,” said Jameson.

“I just feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach these girls. I have learned just as much from them as I hope to have been able to teach them. I am sad it is over, but know I will never forget this season,’ Jameson commented.

Looking ahead

Junior Chelsey Ellis definitely had her moments this year, said Jameson.

“She would come out on fire and she usually thrives under pressure. She and Megan (McClure) both will be coming back next year with major experience under their belt. I expect them both to step up into a leadership role next year.”

Maddie Baxendale is a left-handed right-sided hitter. Jameson felt she contributed a lot throughout the season.

“She contributed a lot to where we got to this year and being a junior I expect her to get a lot more minutes on the court next year,” said Jameson. “She had a great attitude all year long, too.”

Jameson expects Shyann Wilske to step up as well next year.

“I’ve referred to Shyann in the past as a ‘hustler.’ What I mean by that is that she is willing to dive on the court and to sacrifice her body to get the ball,” said Jameson. “I think she’ll be a good defensive player next year like she was for us in playoffs. She’s always a good person to have on the court because you know she is going to go after the ball, no matter what.”

Emilee Reasch brought a lot to the courts this year. Jameson commented throughout the season on the major contribution she made to the team and the unusually high level of confidence she had for a freshman.

“I’m really glad Emilee got to play with this team this year,” said Jameson. “She played along side of Erin (Robertson), the other middle blocker, and got to learn from her by seeing how she plays. As a freshman, she got a taste of the state championship game and contributed all year long. She has so much potential and I’m really glad that I’ll have three more years with her.”

“Mercedes Haney and Bonnie Rodriguez both came up to play with us at playoffs and they got a chance to see what will be expected of them next year,” said Jameson. “Even though they didn’t get any time on the court they still made a contribution with the support they showed for the team.”

Jameson expressed her gratitude for the tremendous support the team received from fans all season long and to her assistant coaches Dana Christiansen, who also coached the JV team, and April Nicholls, who was the freshman coach. She also expressed her appreciation to her sister-in-law McKenzie Jameson for her support throughout the year and the team’s manager Tommie Ann Schmitt.

By Patti Carpenter