The Rocky Mountain Lady Grizzlies have punched their ticket to the state volleyball tournament for the first time since 2010.
A 2-2 record in the Regional tournament, held in Riverton this past weekend, secured the Grizzlies a fourth place finish, securing their appearance in Casper this week.
The 3rd-seeded Rocky Mountain Grizzlies first squared off against second-seeded Kemmerer Friday, winning the match in four sets.
The Lady Grizz won the first set 25-20 and then dropped the second set 25-22.
Rocky took control of the match in the third set, winning it 25-21. Rocky closed the match in a competitive fourth set 26-24.
Christiansen said her team gained momentum with several scoring streaks spurred on by passionate play by her team.
“Aubrianne (Crosby) came out and was able to serve lights out in the first game, eight serving points. Jacey Ross came out in the second game and scored four consecutive serving points,” Christiansen said. “We were able to get those rally points and those momentum points and secure the win.”
Junior Alexis Minemeyer led the Grizzlies with 14 kills in the match. Senior Malia Hedges had 10 kills in the match, which Christiansen called her best performance of the season. Junior Taylor Boettcher had nine kills. Junior Trenity Hackney had eight.
Hackney led the team with five blocks. Junior Taylor Despain had three blocks.
Senior Aubrianne Crosby had 31 digs in the match. Minemeyer had 22. Boettcher had 19.
Rocky next faced off against top-seed Tongue River later that afternoon and found themselves outmatched, dropping the match in three sets, 25-22, 25-21, 25-21.
“We fought them pretty tight, but we weren’t able to get the little extra plays that give us the little extra momentum, we weren’t able to edge them out. They had great blocks and great digs and we weren’t able to get past that,” Christiansen said. “I feel like if we were able to get that momentum in the first game, it would have been a different match. My girls worked hard, they did a lot of good things, we just weren’t able to put them together.”
Hedges found herself abruptly sidelined in the match after landing on her ankle wrong early in the third set. She was in a cast the next day.
“All week we’ve been reading inspirational quotes about team and teamwork and one of them was from Michael Jordan about not taking your sport or the sport you love for granted because it can be over in a single play,” Christiansen said. “We all took that to heart. If you lose a point and you’re barely even tipping it over, it sucks. If you lose and you gave it your complete effort, it still sucks, but that’s different. You can live with that.”
Sophomore Josey Steed filled in for Hedges after largely playing on the junior varsity team for the majority of the season. Christiansen said she was impressed with Steed’s ability to compete.
“Steed came in and was solid,” Christiansen said. “She was able to gel together with the girls and help keep the ball alive.”
Boettcher led the team with nine kills. Hackney recorded seven blocks in the game. Crosby had 22 digs. Senior Teagan Townsend led the team with 19 assists.
The Grizz returned to the court on Saturday to play Shoshoni for a berth to the state tournament in the consolation semifinals. Rocky took the first two sets 25-22 and 25-14. Shoshoni attempted to begin a comeback in a 25-19 third set loss for the Grizzlies, but the Grizz stopped that comeback in short order in a 25-14 fourth set victory.
“It was one of the highlights of the tournament, beating Shoshoni in four games and earning a trip to state,” Christiansen said. “We talked about being consistent, being aggressive, being the ones who are looking to score. I really do feel like they as a whole worked on accomplishing that goal together. There were numerous times we were able to come together as a team.”
Minemeyer led the team with 13 kills. Boettcher has 12 kills. Hackney led the team with six blocks. Despain recorded three blocks in the game. Crosby had 40 digs in the matchup. Townsend had 18.
“Alexis (Minemeyer) had a good tournament, she was solid,” Christiansen said. “She was a very consistent player every game and kept working hard.”
Rocky closed their tournament with a competitive match against Greybull, vying for the third-place trophy. The Grizz fell short in the attempt, losing in four sets.
Rocky took an early eight-point lead in the first set but were unable to keep on top of the Buffaloes, who took the first set away from the Grizz in a 28-26 comeback.
The Grizz were unable to regroup in the second set, dropping it 25-21.
Fortunes seemed to change for the Grizz in the third set, with Rocky dominating play in a 25-15 win.
“I looked up at the score and, holy cow, it was 13-3,” Christiansen said. “It was really that score. My girls were relaxed. We were able to win that match.”
Greybull, though, edged out the Grizz by scoring the last several points in a back and forth fourth set, winning the match 25-21.
Boettcher led the team with 12 kills, Minemeyer had nine. Despain led the team with three blocks. Hackney and Minemeyer both had two.
Crosby led the team in digs with 38. Townsend had 32. Townsend also had 28 assists in the game.
Rocky Mountain will face off against first seed Pine Bluffs at 4:30 p.m Thursday in the state tournament. If they win, they will either face off against the winner of Sundance and Tongue River at 4:30 p.m. Friday or, if they lose, they will play the loser of the matchup at 1 p.m. Friday.
“I think the number one goal is to work together as a team and play every ball to the best of our ability and that is starting to come into play. We can control the ball on our side of the court, we can control if we can get a good pass to our center. We have to be aggressive,” Christiansen said. “I think our greatest goal is just to go and enjoy it and work hard.
“…If our goal is to all show up and just play, we’re going to give everyone a run for their money.”
By Ryan Fitzmaurice