DAYTON — Near the end of Saturday afternoon’s second set, it appeared the Big Horn and Tongue River high school volleyball teams were in for a close battle. Tongue River dropped the first set but led 22-17 in the second frame. The Lady Rams came charging back, however, and scored seven of the final eight points to win the set 25-23.
The second-set comeback seemed to deflate Tongue River and invigorate the Lady Rams, who came out firing in the third set. Big Horn jumped ahead 12-1 and easily won the set, completing a road sweep over Tongue River 25-17, 25-23, 25-9.
After the first two sets teetered back and forth, the Lady Rams used excellent defense and great hitting from players including Shyan Davidson and Sydney Schmidt to take control of the final set.
Tongue River head coach Janelle Manore said losing the second set was a momentum killer for her team in the third set.
“We were just kind of sitting back on our heels hoping for them to make a mistake instead of earning points,” Manore said.
The ending of the first set mirrored the second, with Big Horn tallying the final seven points to win the opening stanza. The Lady Rams played well at the net in the first set and took a 16-10 lead. Tongue River came flying back, in part due to several nice serves and kills from Seeara Wojctzak. They couldn’t complete the first-set comeback, however, as the last point came when the Lady Eagles hit the ball into the net.
Big Horn head coach Katie Stewart said the Lady Rams showed excellent communication throughout the match, which she said was part of the reason they won the first set.
“They were going the extra mile for each other,” Stewart said.
Tongue River opened up strong in the second set, springing ahead 7-2 thanks to good defensive play at the net. Big Horn rallied to tie the score at 15 after Schmidt had several kills. The Lady Eagles went back ahead on the strength of Wojctzak and Morgan Warren’s offensive plays before dropping the second set after a great finish from Big Horn.
The third set was never in question. The Lady Rams performed extremely well in all aspects, and the Lady Eagles weren’t nearly as aggressive as their head coach would have liked.
Stewart said Big Horn is doing well at this point in the season and similar to how she hoped. They still have many areas to work on, like offensive hitting, but are eager to improve.
“They always have things they tell me they want to work on,” Stewart said. “I like that they’re being conscious athletes.”
Stewart said once the team realizes how good it can be, the sky’s the limit.
“Sometimes, I don’t think they know how good they really are,” she said.
Saturday’s defeat was part of a tough weekend for Tongue River, which lost to No. 1 Wright at home Friday 25-11, 25-10, 25-7. Manore said it can be frustrating for a young team to play against more experienced competition.
“We have a lot of girls with bright futures,” Manore said. “We’ve got a lot of growing pains to get through, and hopefully we can just continue to work through those growing pains and get to a point where the girls have the confidence to just go out and play to the best of their abilities.”
The teams also raised an estimated $573 through Dig Pink shirt and ticket sales for the Side-Out Foundation, which donates the money for breast cancer research. The teams plan to continue fundraising in the years ahead. They aim to alternate venues for the game, so next year’s Dig Pink match will occur when Big Horn hosts Tongue River.
“There’s not a lot that’s more important to Janelle and I than volleyball, but this is something that is,” Stewart said.
Big Horn hosts Buffalo on Thursday, while Tongue River travels Friday to Greybull.