The Saratoga Sun -

Streak ends, Lady Tigers still make postseason play


FW Broschart

McKenzie Powell and Hailey Barkhurst high five in preparation for their game against Saratoga

The Encampment Lady Tigers volleyball team saw their impressive win streak interrupted by Farson-Eden Friday, but the Tigers secured a berth in postseason play regardless, and also ended Saratoga's season Saturday.

The undefeated Tigers lost in Farson-Eden in four sets, ending the varsity squad's uninterrupted string of 23 victories. The loss did not erode the team's standing in its division however, where it is still ranked No. 1.

In the Farson Match, the Tigers lost the first set 16-25. It was the first set the team lost all season. In the following three sets, the Tigers rallied and won the second set 25-21. The rally was short-lived, however, with Encampment giving up the next two sets in the match by 23-25 and 22-25.

Robin O'Leary, head coach of the Encampment Tigers, said the team did very well on hitting, serving and blocking, but struggled with serve receiving.

"That's my fault," O'Leary said. "We didn't spend much time on it in practice this week."

Instead, O'Leary said she focused on having players rotate in for Paige Powell, one of Encampment's heavy hitters who was out of action because of a knee injury.

Sierra Martinez, who was out last week due to illness, was in the Farson-Eden game and brought her best to the court, even though she said she was still not feeling 100 percent well during a Saturday interview.

Martinez scored six aces, 24 assists, three kills and 1 block during the game against the Pronghorns.

Hailey Barkhurst put in a strong defensive game with eight digs, 10 kills and 1 block. McKenzie Powell made 11 digs, 10 kills and four blocks.

"We were talking a lot last night on the bus about our loss yesterday (At Farson-Eden)," Martinez said Saturday. "And we are very grateful it happened; we can learn lots and we're using that to build our team."

Saturday's game saw the Tigers closer to their old form against Valley rival Saratoga Panthers, despite Martinez still feeling under the weather and Paige Powell being out. The match was must-win for who needed one more win to qualify for postseason play. Unfortunately for them, the Panthers went home with their season ended.

The Tigers swept the Panthers in three sets, just as they had against all but one of their opponents before the loss in Farson-Eden. The Tigers won 25-12, 25-16 and 25-14, ending the Panthers' hopes of a post season appearance.

"Our team played very cohesively this game," O'Leary said. "...we realize how lucky we are to have people on the bench who step in and do a great job.

"Not many teams can lose a player like Paige (Powell) and still be able to dominate a game."

Noelle Peterson delivered a strong defense to the team with seven digs, 13 kills and 2 blocks. Martinez had 12 digs, 31 assists and three kills.

"I think we're at a very good spot," McKenzie Powell said. "We had a little bit of a rough game against Farson so I think today, coming together and being united was absolutely wonderful for us coming into regionals.

"Our strength is our unity, playing for each other and our camaraderie on the court," she said.

FW Broschart

Sierra Martinez, back from an illness that sidelined her last week, sets the ball.

O'Leary said the team is in a good place going into regionals, but there were still a few areas that the team would work on this week in the lead up to the regionals in Lander, but she is confident in the team's skills as the players enter the post season.

"I think we're sitting pretty good," O'Leary said. "I'm not saying we're going to go out there and beat everybody I'm just saying we're at a good place."

For one player, the next week means uncertainty as to when-or whether-she will be able to help out her teammates during postseason play.

"I'm going to try and practice on Monday, but it depends on pain levels," Paige Powell said. "Hopefully (I can be back in the game) before regionals."

When asked if she thought she'd be ready for state, should the team make it, she said, "definitely."

The West Regional Tournament will be held Oct. 28-29 in Lander. State Finals are the following weekend, Nov. 3-5, in Casper.


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