The Saratoga Sun -

Tigers earn fourth-place stripes at state


Doug Radunich

Jenny Morgan gets her arms ready for a dig while Alyssa Barkhurst, far left, and Kaylyn Wessel keep on guard during the State Tournament in Casper. The girls placed fourth out of eight 1A teams. Morgan had 69 digs in the match against Little Snake River.

After a seven-year absence from the Wyoming State Volleyball Tournament, Encampment's Lady Tigers fought their way back with a vengeance this time, clawing to fourth place of out eight participating 1A teams.

The girls played four games Thursday through Saturday at the state tournament, held at the Casper Events Center in Casper, and scored two match wins against Little Snake River and Upton. The two match losses for the Tigers both came from Hulett and lasted three games each.

State and regional matches included, the Lady Tigers ended their season record with an impressive 9-4 for conference and 21-10-1 for non-conference. Freshman Sierra Loftice received All-Conference Honorable Mention, senior Jennifer Morgan received Second Team All-Conference, and sophomore Alyssa Barkhurst received First Team All-Conference and All-State.

One major highlight of the state tourney was the Tigers' five-game winning match against Little Snake River, whom they had lost to twice and beat once earlier in the season. Coach Robin O'Leary said their state match against the Lady Rattlers really showed what they were made and capable of the whole season.

"We didn't play very well against them the first two times we played them, so they never really saw us play before, and I don't think they were expecting us to play so well," she said. "I think they were shocked. Our two main hitters, Jenny and Alyssa, were off both times we played Baggs and weren't hitting, so they didn't know what we had before really. Baggs has an awesome team and their fundamentals are solid, so there's no way you can just walk over them."

O'Leary said game fear also played a part in the three wins and two losses during the Little Snake River match.

"You can see the momentum shift in the game when you see the fear come upon their faces, and it happened to both Encampment and Baggs at different times," she said. "You have to stay strong and not start playing safe in order to win. With the three games we won, we did that, and with the two games we lost, Baggs did it."

Senior Kaylyn Wessel, who wrapped up her high school volleyball career on a happy note, said the positive energy from the team helped lead them to win two out of four tournament matches.

"I think we did well staying as a team working together and never getting down on each other," she said. "That's what always brings us up. Sometimes we had trouble putting the ball away, but that's because the other team is really scrappy and pretty good competition. In general, I don't think there is much our team could have done better besides practicing and the general stuff of getting more in shape."

Wessel agreed that during the Little Snake River match was when the Tigers hit back the hardest at state.

"I think we definitely played harder against Baggs because it's more of a team we play a lot, so we kind of wanted redemption with them," she said. "They beat us twice before and we beat them once before, so this kind of evened out the score."

Doug Radunich

The 2013 Encampment Lady Tigers show off their fourth-place trophy at the State Volleyball Tournament.

Sophomore Alyssa Barkhurst said the team played their hardest against Little Snake River and Upton, but they were pretty tired during the second and last game against Hulett. She said self-motivation and communication were what brought the team together and caused the two wins Friday and Saturday.

"I think from the very beginning we did really well playing as one and as a team, which was our big goal, and communication was also a huge thing," Barkhurst said. "If we talk with each other and personally we play better, so talking and communicating were huge."

As a senior, Wessel said making it to state for the first time during her last year on the team will remain a memorable experience.

"I'm going to miss everything, and I love this team so much," she said. "This is the first time we've had pretty much no drama ever in the season, so going out with such a great team makes it even harder to leave and say goodbye. I'm going to miss all the girls and their work ethic, and how much everyone just 'wants it.'"


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