After clawing their way to fourth place at Regionals this week in Jackson, the Lady Bulldogs volleyball team earned a chance to compete in the 3A State Championship games in Casper this weekend.
“We knew that we were going to have to put together a good, solid weekend of volleyball in order to qualify for State,” said Coach Stormy Jameson. “At this level, there are no easy games and every team wants it just as bad as you do.”
In their first match the girls were up against Jackson, a team they beat four times in previous tournaments. Jackson, boosted by not only home court advantage but also a good turnout of fans, prevailed after four hard-fought sets.
“I was really nervous about playing Jackson this time even though we had beaten them every time before that,” said Jameson. “It was their home court, with their home fans and we knew they wanted revenge.”
The Lady Bulldogs came out strong in the first set winning 25-20 but fell in the next three sets 25-20, 25-21 and 26-24.
“We almost suffered a very devastating blow when our top player (Emilee Reasch) went down, rolling her ankle in the third set,” said Jameson. “When Emilee went down, it was one of those gut-wrenching feelings that I would never wish on anyone. Our team obviously relies on her to carry not only a heavy offensive load but on serve-receive and defense as well.”
While Jameson gave the girls a pep talk, Reasch already had trainers wrapping her ankle and got ready to return to the court, which she did for the fourth set.
“I told the girls that even with Emilee, it takes six girls on the court to win a volleyball game and this just meant that others were going to have to step up and fill her shoes,” said Jameson. “Even though we lost, I was very impressed by how our girls handled the injury. We fought really hard and never gave up. That was a tough game that would have been nice to have won and put us in an easier spot for the rest of the tournament.”
The girls turned misfortune into fortune the next day, beating both Cody and Star Valley, which propelled them into a spot at State.
“Losing that game put us playing the Cody Fillies on Saturday morning,” said Jameson. “We knew our backs were up against the wall and it was do-or-die time. It was win or go home and the season would be over if we lost, but Cody was in that same situation and when two teams are both fighting for their seasons, it can go either way. No one wants it to be over.”
Reasch showed her team what tough looks like when she showed up to play, in spite of an obviously painful injury.
“After icing and elevating her ankle all evening, Emilee was able to play,” said Jameson. “It was pretty swollen but hadn’t started turning colors yet. She wasn’t 100 percent, but her 75 percent proved to be good enough.”
The Lady Bulldogs won three out of four sets, winning the important match, 25-23, 22-25, 25-18, 27-25.
“Cody is a good team and winning that was a sigh of relief, but we still hadn’t accomplished our goal yet,” said Jameson. “Winning that game put us into another loser-out game against the Star Valley Braves, (who beat us earlier in the season at the conference duals.”
The Lady Bulldogs entered the game motivated and ready to win, knowing that this game would make or break their ability to qualify for the state tournament. The ladies won three out of four sets 25-16, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20.
“We were very thrilled to have won that game and punch a ticket to Casper,” said Jameson. “Moving up to 3A has forced us to face such strong competition, making this tournament was no walk in the park and this group of girls rose to the occasion.
“Although we clinched a state berth, we still had to turn around and play Jackson again for the third and fourth place seeds.”
Worn out from the previous two hard-fought games of the day the girls ran out of steam, according to Jameson, falling short to Jackson (20-25, 15-25, 21-25).
“Now that we have made it to the state tournament, our sights are set to go in and make some noise,” she said. “We will face the No. 1 seed from the south in the first round (Rawlins), but they better not take us lightly.”
The cumulative stats for the weekend showed Reasch leading the team, in spite of her injury, with 67 kills, 7 blocks, 69 digs, 8 aces and 4 assists. Savanna Savage had 21 kills, 11 blocks and 8 digs. Mykelle Nichols had 36 kills, 61 digs, 1 ace and 1 assist. Chayli McArthur had 18 kills, 1 block, 39 digs, 4 aces and 8 assists. Lauren Hinckley had 31 digs, 1 ace and 1 assist. Angie Hutzenbiler had 1 dig. Mandi Jo Baxendale had 2 kills. Karli Keller had 16 kills, 59 digs, 8 aces and 3 assists. Charri McArthur had 12 kills, 43 digs, 6 aces and 133 assists.
Next up: The girls will go to Casper for the 2014 State Volleyball Tournament where they will play Rawlins at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The tournament runs through Saturday.
Seniors exiting the team upon graduation are Angie Hutzenbiler, Lauren Hinckley, Chayli McArthur and Emilee Reasch.
By Patti Carpenter