The Saratoga Sun -

Lady Tigers take third in state

Encampment drops after tough loss to eventual winners Baggs in semi-finals

 

FW Broschart

The Lady Tigers show pride and disappointment as they sing the Encampment School fight song after their loss to Baggs in the semifinals Saturday.

Disappointment showed on the faces of Encampment High School volleyball players Friday in Casper, when the Lady Tigers gave up a match to the Little Snake River rattlers in the semifinal round at the State Finals.

The loss to the Rattlers eliminated the team from taking first place, relegating the Encampment netters to either third or fourth place at best. The loss was a blow and emotions ran high for team members, especially those who were in their final weekend as volleyball players for Encampment High School.

"They have a right to grieve," Encampment head coach Robin O'Leary said immediately after the game. The match went for five sets, a rarity for the Tigers who, throughout the season, dispatched most of their opponents in three-set sweeps.

In the game against the Rattlers, the Tigers lost the first two sets by the narrowest of margins, with scores of 25-22 in the first set, and 26-24 in the second. In the third set, the Lady Tigers rallied and handed the Rattlers decisive losses, shutting down the ladies from Little Snake River by impressive margins, winning 14-25 and 11-25 in the third and fourth sets.

The fifth and final set is only played to 15 points with a two-point differential required to win. The Tigers started out strong in the final set, taking the early lead in and running away with the set in the early half. The Tigers ran up the score, leading the Rattlers by a score of 10-5. But as positive energy started to wash over the court and Encampment's dozens-strong cheering section in the bleachers, something began to go wrong.

From a deficit of 5 points, the Rattlers pulled out all the stops and went on a scoring streak while holding the Tigers to scoring only one point. After the Rattler's rally, the set was suddenly tied 11-11.

A point scored by Encampment made the score 12-11, but Little Snake River answered back immediately, tying the game again 12-12 before scoring again putting the Tigers behind 12-13. The Tigers answered the point with one of their own bring the set total to 13-13.

Encampment, howeverwould not score again, and lost the fifth and final set 13-15, eliminating them from being able to repeat last year's state championship.

The loss was difficult for the team to take; many of the players were seniors who hoped for a repeat of last years' championship.

"They should have no regrets; they did their best they played hard, came back and had two really good sets." O'Leary said. "Of course we wish it was a different outcome, but Baggs is a good team and there's no shame in losing to a good team."

One player on the team did not agree wholeheartedly, saying the game was Encampment's to lose, and they had done so by not playing well.

* * *

Saturday, the final day of State Finals found the Tigers in better spirits as they faced off in a consolation round against Lingle. The team who won the consolation match would go on to play a final game to determine a third or fourth place finish.

The loser of the match would go home.

The match against Lingle began under a pall; Encampment gave up the first set to Lingle, losing by a resounding 17-25. The Tigers rallied on the next set, besting Lingle 25-13. But the momentum was not on the Tigers' side; they lost the third set 22-25. Encampment recovered however, and delivered a defeat to Lingle by a healthy 25-14 margin.

This time, as Encampment went again into a fifth and final game to determine the winner of the set, the team kept its momentum and won the set 15-5, advancing to a final round later that afternoon to determine whether the team would return with a third or fourth place finish for the year.

In that final game, The Lady Tigers took on the Farson-Eden Pronghorns. A familiar opponent Encampment played several times in regular season play. The Tigers shut down the Pronghorns in a decisive sweep with scores of 25-15, 25-16 and 25-10, securing third place in State for Encampment.

* * *

Even though the team results were not what anyone had hoped for, several Encampment players earned individual accolades by being named All State players. Hailey Barkhurst, Sierra Martinez, McKenzie Powell and Paige Powell were all named All State Players. Paige and McKenzie Powell were also All State players in 2015.

For seniors McKenzie Powell and Sierra Martinez, the Saturday afternoon game against Farson-Eden will be their final game as Encampment High School volleyball players. And even though the team did not repeat its state championship this year, McKenzie Powell believes she is leaving the team in good hands, and that in the future, anything is possible.

McKenzie says the most important thing and the one thing that should endure for the team is their sense of spirit.

Courtesy Mary Martin

The team is all smiles as they collect their third place trophy Saturday evening.

"I just hope that they keep the mentality that we started with this, for being grateful for each other for loving each other," McKenzie said. "That's what makes us so special, the fact that we love and serve each other."

McKenzie's younger sister Paige, a sophomore, said even though her older teammate and sister will be moving on to college next year, she hopes that she can fill the role of big sister for younger players coming up the next couple years.

"We're going to have a strong team again next year," Paige said. "It's just going to be working hard and getting better and just keeping on progressing.

"(I just want to be) an older sister to those coming up, making sure that they feel included and making sure that just because they're underclassmen doesn't make them any less important than us big guys."

 

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