BIG HORN — The Big Horn High School and Tongue River High School volleyball teams ended Saturday with exciting victories at the Big Horn Invitational. The Lady Rams took home the consolation championship in the winner’s bracket, while the Lady Eagles won the lower bracket title.
Big Horn didn’t start well Saturday but ended on a high note. The Lady Rams dropped a winnable game against Greybull in the morning but recovered to win their next two games against Sundance and Southeast.
“Today was a roller coaster,” head coach Katie Stewart said. “I know [the players] were upset (after losing to Greybull), so I was really proud of them for bouncing back.”
Big Horn played great at times against Greybull but ultimately couldn’t seal the deal, falling in three sets 12-25, 25-19, 15-13. The Lady Rams dominated the first set, using excellent defensive effort and quality passing to set up their offense.
The second set began positively for Big Horn as well, with the Lady Rams building a 5-3 lead. Things turned when Greybull scored seven consecutive points to go ahead 13-7. The Lady Rams seemed a half-step off and had a few poor passes and hitting errors. Big Horn stayed competitive and narrowed the lead to 21-18 but were finished off in the set by strong net play from the Lady Buffaloes. The third set ended when a Big Horn kill attempt sailed out of bounds.
Big Horn came back against Sundance to win the second game of the day 22-25, 25-12, 15-9. The Lady Rams then swept Southeast 26-24, 25-23 in its final matchup, a measure of revenge for their loss against Southeast in straight sets Friday afternoon.
The Lady Rams played inconsistently over the weekend but their head coach was pleased with how it ended.
“Overall I think the weekend went well,” Stewart said. “It went different (than I expected) but it went well.”
Stewart said the quality ending will hopefully boost the team’s confidence heading into conference play this week.
“We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but we’ve made such huge improvements from the beginning of the year,” Stewart said.
For TR, Saturday was a matter of incorporating joy into competition, because head coach Janelle Manore said the team plays better when it has fun.
The Lady Eagles didn’t have much fun Friday, losing five of six sets. Saturday was a completely different story, though, as the team’s enthusiasm and effort led to three victories. The Lady Eagles were seeded sixth in their bracket and took down three consecutive higher-seeded teams.
“You could just see they love playing together and we had a great time,” Manore said.
TR had comeback wins in two of its three matchups. In their first game against Wind River, the Lady Eagles dropped the first set and trailed in the third set but came back to win 17-25, 25-19, 16-14.
Manore called that opening win a turning point for the day.
“Sometimes it just takes that one win to build that confidence,” Manore said.
Indeed, it was a similar story in the final match against Moorcroft. Coming off a sweep over Shoshoni, the Lady Eagles only had about a 30-minute break between matches and seemed sluggish in the opening set, losing 25-13.
The Lady Eagles kept battling, though, and narrowly won the second set 25-23 before completing the comeback with a 15-10 victory in the third set.
The Lady Eagles played great Saturday but Manore said there is still plenty of work to do, including more aggression on offense and less errors on defense. The team had an excellent showing Saturday that should build confidence going forward, as long as the team plays relaxed, joyous volleyball.
Big Horn travels Friday to Wright, while Tongue River hosts Greybull.
@HED | OBIT, BRIEFS:Arvada-Clearmont competes in Big Horn Invitational for first time
If quality losses exist in volleyball, Arvada-Clearmont High School had several over the weekend. The Lady Panthers only won one of their 10 sets but played several competitive matches against top-tier opponents in their first appearance at the Big Horn tournament.
Head coach Sarah Walker said she believed the team had the physical and mental capability to compete in the tournament this year and face 2A teams.
“We wanted to use it to push us to play to a level that we’re uncomfortable with,” Walker said.
She said they were a little taken aback by the step up in competition Friday morning but got used to the different speed, size and power by the third match of the weekend. The Lady Panthers lost Friday to Sundance 25-11, 25-16. They then fell to Greybull 25-17 and 25-8 and tied Lusk, winning the second set 25-21 after dropping the first set 25-20.
The winning set against Lusk was the team’s only victory of the weekend, but the Lady Panthers played well in their two matches Saturday. Walker said the Lady Panthers especially stepped up their play on defense.
“We were forcing teams to find the holes on our side of the court because their normal spots weren’t there because we were digging balls and our net play was just great,” Walker said.
Arvada-Clearmont was the seventh seed in the gold bracket and lost in two sets to Shoshoni 25-12, 25-19. The Lady Panthers trailed 11-7 and hung in the match but could never get the score close enough to put serious pressure on Shoshoni. The Lady Panthers were then on the precipice of defeating Wind River but had a few bounces go against them and lost 27-25, 25-21. Walker said the team performed better than she expected. After playing mostly 2A teams in the non-conference slate, Walker is looking forward to playing 1A teams going forward.
“The challenge now is coming back on Monday and keeping the intensity and the level of play up in practice,” Walker said.
Walker said her players’ energy and communication were great and the group is coming together as a team.
“We’re at a point where it doesn’t matter who gets the kill,” Walker said. “It doesn’t matter who gets the point. We’re just excited that it happened.”
The Lady Panthers ultimately didn’t win many sets, but showed they could compete well against quality competition.
AC travels Friday to Kaycee.