Oct 28, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterThe Wolverines pen the Class 4-A state tournament Thursday afternoon against Gillette.
High hopes of using home-court advantage to momentum in the postseason for the Riverton Lady Wolverines girls volleyball team were set back Saturday as Riverton dropped both of its Class 4-A West regional tournament matches and settled for fourth place in the tournament played at Wolverine Gym.
The Wolverines dropped an emotional first match to Casper Natrona in four sets (21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 32-30) and also were defeated by Evanston in four sets (25-17, 19-25, 25-15, 25-15) to end up with the fourth-place finish.
Despite the losses, the Lady Wolverines do advance in postseason play as the fourth seed from the West because of their second-place regular-season conference finish which automatically qualified them for the state tournament that begins Thursday at the Casper Events Center.
Riverton will challenge the Class 4-A East champion Gillette, which beat Cheyenne East in five sets (21-25, 25-21, 33-35, 25-11, 18-16) at their regional tournament, in its first-round state tournament match Thursday at 2 p.m.
"I'm disappointed. How can you not be? You want the girls to play their best. You want to win. When you don't do that, it is a little frustrating. But you learn how to play on," RHS head coach Adrian McNamee said.
Kelly Walsh, the regular-season conference champion, also had received automatic state berth.
Evanston, which will have the third seed from the Class 4-A West, and Casper Natrona advanced to Saturday's bracket play in Wolverine Gym by eliminating Rock Springs and Green River on Friday.
Early Saturday evening, Natrona beat Kelly Walsh 3-1 to win the Class 4-A West regional tournament. Natrona, the third seed entering regional and had defeated Green River in straight sets (25-18, 25-9, 25-9) and Evanston in straight sets (25-19, 25-17, 26-24) to advance to Saturday play.
First game winner
In a high energy, enthusiastic atmosphere at Wolverine Gym, the Lady Wolverines started slow against Natrona and fell behind 7-4 before storming back to tie the first game at 8-8 after two thunderous kills by Kiley Ridgway and Haley Snell and a diving dig by Brooklenn Thompson.
Jensyn Pettit's back-to-back kill and block kept Riverton in the lead at 16-14, and Snell's ace forced NC to call a timeout at 19-16.
Riverton fell behind 21-20 but called a timeout to regroup.
Ridgway, a junior and one of the state's leaders in blocks and kills, then smacked two kills, and NC was whistled for two net violations to give Riverton the first game.
Casper Natrona then bounced back to take games two and three -- Riverton's only lead in either of the next two games was at 1-0 in the second game -- to set up what was the most exciting, and heartbreaking, game of the tournament for Riverton.
With solid serving from Courtney Olson, Pettit blocked, sent a kill though NC's tall front line, and got another block to give Riverton the lead at 7-6. Kenisha Muehler and Ridgway registered back-to-back kills to put Riverton up at 13-10 and force an NC timeout.
The Lady Wolverines expanded their lead to 21-13 with another block by Pettit and a perfect off-balance set by Kaitlin Koehn that gave Muehler an easy outside kill.
But NC called a timeout, and the momentum of the match changed.
The Fillies' Gabby Johnson's three strong kills, coupled with some uncharacteristically bad Lady Wolverine passing, allowed NC to tie the match at 21-21.
Riverton tried to regain momentum, and another Pettit combo kill and block gave Riverton a serve and the chance to win the game.
But two more unforced errors -- a net serve and a double-hit -- allowed NC to again rally.
NC had chances to win game four at 27-26, 28-27, 29-28 before Riverton, with Olson serving, had its own chance to tie the match at 2-2 at 30-29.
Again, Johnson proved to be too much for Riverton, and her kill and block gave NC the match at 32-30.
"When you have a bunch of juniors and sophomores, they put a lot of extra pressure on themselves to play and not make mistakes. You have to play loose and your style of game, and I don't think we did that," McNamee said.
Ridgway led Riverton with 12 kills, and Pettit added nine. Kirstee Trees had a game-high 23 digs. Koehn had 28 assists.
Riverton had to bounce back immediately to battle Evanston, which lost its earlier match to Kelly Walsh.
After losing the first two sets to the Lady Red Devils 25-17 and 25-19, Riverton jumped out to a 21-14 lead in the third set. Although Olsen's ace and another Pettit block and kill gave Riverton game three at 25-15, the Lady Wolverines never led in game four and lost the match 3-1.
"I think we ran out of steam (against Evanston). I don't think we played at the level we could against them," McNamee said.
The Lady Wolverines will return to the practice court Monday through Wednesday before heading to Casper on Thursday.
"We'll get film out, get things going, and prepare as much as we can for that first night. All you can do is worry about the next game you have and take care of that. We have to take care of business on our side first. We didn't pass as well as we could, and we lost a little bit of aggression. We need to get that back this week. We need to bring the heat more," McNamee said.
4-A West semifinals
Casper Natrona 21 25 25 32 -- 3
Riverton 25 18 21 30 -- 1
Evanston 25 19 25 25 --3
Riverton 17 25 15 15 --1
State Tournament Pairings
Casper Events Center
2 p.m. -- Riverton (4W) vs. Gillette (1E)
3:30 p.m. -- Cheyenne Central (3E) vs. Casper Kelly Walsh (2W)
5 p.m. -- Evanston (3W) vs Cheyenne East (2E)
6:30 p.m. -- Laramie (4E) vs. Casper Natrona (1W)
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