CASPER – The Lady Vikings started out red-hot on Thursday against Worland High School before hitting a wall and falling in the first game.
The Lady Bulldogs had the late game Thursday night and sat through three games where the west region dominated play. Teams Buffalo, Newcastle and Douglas were all shut out in their matches, not being able to secure even a single game victory.
Wheatland took the court at 7:30 p.m. against Worland and won the first two sets, 25-13 and 25-17 sending a message that the east region would not be shut out. The third set was back and forth and went down to the wire several times before Worland narrowly pulled it out 29-27. It changed the momentum, Worland changed the tempo and came away with the fourth set in another close game, 25-22. The fifth set provided another nail-biter but when the dust cleared, Worland not only took the wind out of the Wheatland sails, but gave the west region it’s fourth straight victory of the day. They took that fifth set 15-12.
The good news was that the Lady Bulldogs didn’t have to play the state’s No. 2 ranked team, but the bad news was that they had to play Newcastle, a team that they had beaten twice in the last month in close competition. The losing team would go home. They went on to defeat Newcastle in four sets, 25-15, 25-14, 18-25 and 25-12 which left them in an ominous position to play against Powell early Saturday morning. Powell had shut out Douglas in their first match, 3-0 and played tough against No. 1 ranked Mountain View in their second game.
For Wheatland, it would be a long and hard road getting to the third-place game. They would have to defeat Powell for a chance to take the third-place trophy. Against Powell a team loaded with front line attackers including a 6’2” dominant senior assassin and blocker came out firing and flexing their western muscle. They came away with a victory in the first set, 25-19. Although the Lady Dogs played hard, they played most of the game with a six-point deficit. With their backs to the wall and the threat of going home without any hardware, the Lady Bulldogs found the momentum that they started with Thursday night.
Heavy front line spiking by Annaliese Matthews, Lily Nichols, Desirae Iacovetto, Hadley Paisley, Brinley Heimsoth and Gavrielle Dawson combined with pinpoint setters Grace Battershell, Alley Gunter, Laynie Goertz, Camryn Mickelsen and their 2020 senior all-state player Kendall Schaffner who was equally dangerous in her kills and in her patented rolling dig, gave the Lady Dogs three strong games and the match, 25-22, 25-22 and 25-13.
Excited at a chance at a rematch with Worland, the Lady Dogs kept the wind in their sails, never let the momentum swing and defeated the Lady Warriors 25-17, 25-10 and 25-16 to take third place in the state.
“We are very proud of our gals. It is never easy to drop the first match and battle back in the consolation round,” said head volleyball coach Sally Nichols. “It is a tough road to earn third as our ladies went 3-1 at the state tournament. There are only two teams per classification that accomplished that, first and third place. Although we had our sights on that first place finish, third is a great achievement and we were able to end our season on a win. I feel the lady bulldogs wanted to show what they were made of and put an emphatic stamp on their last match getting Worland in three sets. We are very proud of all our gals in the program and the state tournament team. It was a successful season for the C-team, JV and Varsity. Our coaches and players worked very hard to support our student athletes and provide all of them an opportunity to play, learn and grow. We are looking forward to next season and to continue to build our program. Thank you to the entire community for supporting us, it was amazing to see everyone at regionals and state pulling for our gals”
Although this was the first year at the varsity helm for the Lady Bulldongs for Nichols, this was not her first rodeo.
“I have coached a State Championship team for Natrona in 2007 and Runner-up in 2008 also for Natrona,” Nichols said. “I have played in a State volleyball championship match in 1995-1996, my senior year. I also played for a Basketball State Championship team the same year in 1996 for Lusk.
“Being a part of a successful team is a dream come true as a player and as a coach. It means a lot and those experiences reverberate in your soul, so much so that you really want players you coach to get the opportunity to have that same feeling. I really felt bad and guilty that we did not win on Day One...I wanted it for our gals so badly, I know it isn't just one thing that occurs to keep it from happening, but I always feel responsible somehow. I just want athletes to get to experience that taste of a state championship, it is a feeling that cannot be recreated in any other way. We finished 28-9, won the regional championship at home, went undefeated at home, and earned third place at state. This team truly achieved and I am very proud of them and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them this season.”