The Lovell Lady Bulldogs battled the best at the State Volleyball Tournament over the weekend but after winning it all a year ago couldn’t quite get over the top this year.
Lovell stopped East Regional three seed Southeast High School 3-0 in the first round Thursday but fell to perennial power Big Horn 3-1 in Friday night’s semifinals. A bit dispirited, the Lady Bulldogs fell to Wright Saturday morning, 3-0.
The Lady Bulldogs enjoyed seeing a new opponent in the form of Southeast Thursday afternoon, Coach Stormy Jameson said, and after some first-game jitters, the Lovell squad took control of the match, winning 26-24, 25-17, 25-14.
Lovell trailed Southeast 17-12 in game one before rallying to win.
“I think it was first-game-at-State jitters,” Jameson said. “Half of our team was experienced, and half was inexperienced at State. All week long we talked about the intimidation factor, playing in such a big place. I think that got to them in the first game.”
With her team down, senior Mercedes Haney rallied her troops with two or three good kills, which “swung some of the momentum our way,” Jameson said.
“Once we got the jitters out, we started playing with more confidence, especially Mykelle (Nichols) and Savanna (Savage),” the coach said in reference to two sophomores. “At one point I looked at Savanna in the first set and her face was white. I could just tell she was scared and nervous. Then I could tell that she got it out of her system.”
Emilee Reasch led the team with 11 kills, and Haney added 10, Lauren Hinckley six, Nichols five and Savage four in a balanced attack. Reasch also led the team with 20 digs, five blocks and three aces. Nichols had 17 digs, Chayli McArthur 16, Charri McArthur 12, Haney eight and Hinckley seven. Chayli McArthur had 29 assists.
Big Horn battle
The defending state champions battled last year’s title match opponent Big Horn in the semifinals Friday night and gave it their all but fell in four games, 25-18, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21 to a tough opponent.
“On the whole, Big Horn is quite a bit better than Southeast,” Jameson said. “We knew Big Horn and Wright were the two teams to look for from the East. They generally are. We knew going in they were going to be a tough team.
“We didn’t play bad. The match was fairly close. But the thing that stood out in all three sets that we lost was that Big Horn had three good hitters, but only Emilee (Reasch) was hitting for us. She had 32 kills, which is a season high and probably a career high for her.”
All four games were close, but Jameson said the Lady Bulldogs won game two when Reasch happened to be on the front row to help close out the game, but in the three losses she ended up on the back row during the final stages.
“In set two, she was on the front row at the end and she was able to get some kills,” Jameson said “In the other three she was on the back row at the end of a close match. When she wasn’t able to hit, we were struggling offensively. We didn’t make a lot of errors, but we weren’t getting kills.”
After Reasch’s 32 kills, eight per match, the next highest total for the Lady Bulldogs was four, one per match. Reasch also led the team in digs with 32, and Haney had 27 digs, Nichols 25, Charri McArthur 19, Hinckley 17 and Chayli McArthur 11. Reasch had four blocks, Savage and Chayli McArthur three each. Chayli also led the team with 35 assists.
Down and out
The Big Horn loss was “a heartbreaker,” Jameson said, and though the team worked hard against Wright Saturday morning, their heart wasn’t quite in it.
Lovell fell 25-21, 25-16, 25-18.
“With Lovell always being so successful in sports, you’re either first or last (if not a champion),” Jameson said. “Friday was even a tougher loss than Saturday. The girls feel placing third or being consolation champions is insignificant compared to winning it all.
“I thought Saturday’s game would go one of two ways. We would come out and play really hard or play like crap. We did play better than I expected. We did play hard. Wright had time to kind of accept being in the losers’ bracket, but we hadn’t had time to get over it yet. Wright had the mental edge on us.”
But Jameson was proud of her team for the way they fought.
“There were several times when we got down by quite a few points, but we didn’t give up. We didn’t roll over,” she said.
Reasch finished with 13 kills, Haney six. Haney and Reasch had 21 digs each, Chayli McArthur 14, Hinckley 11, Charri McArthur 10 and Nichols nine. Savage led the team with four blocks, and Chayli McArthur led with 16 assists.
Jameson said she would like to thank her assistant coaches, Kisha McArthur and Levi Collins for their hard work this season. She is especially grateful to McArthur for stepping in when she had her baby, Jace, during the season.
“She covered for me when I was gone, and I really appreciate that,” Jameson said.
by David Peck