The Saratoga Sun -

Lady Tigers, Rattlers play marathon match

Encampment, Baggs volleyball teams play 5 games to miniscule margins of victory


The crowds that streamed into the Tiger Den in Encampment Saturday went to see a volleyball match, but wound up with a marathon seesaw session between two top-ranked teams in the division.

The match between the Encampment Tigers and the Little Snake River Valley School Rattlers was expected to be tough, but as it stretched into five games with almost every game going into extra points, the crowd got louder and louder cheering on their teams. In the end, the teams traded off the lead countless times and nearly every game ended with the slimmest of margins.

The winner of a volleyball match is determined by which team is the first to win five games, and each win must be secured by two points or more. And such it was for Encampment's eventual loss to the Rattlers by points margins so thin one could see the light right through them.

The Tigers lost the first game by a mere 24-26. One the second, the Lady Tigers flipped the score, winning 26-24. The third game was settled after quite some time when Encampment took the game 29-27.

About halfway through that third game, one of Encampment's several star players, Paige Powell, was taken out of the game after falling ill, necessitating a roster change.

Despite losing a key player, the Tigers battled on and continued to bring the game to the Rattlers, keeping things close.

"I am amazingly proud of my girls; all of them are super," Robin O'Leary, head coach for the Encampment Lady Tigers said. "We had four of them come in off the bench that played great, they filled some big shoes when Paige (Powell) went out with a migraine. We won a game without her, which I don't think people thought we could do."

In the fourth game, the Lady Tigers did work hard, and didn't yield an inch to to the defending state champion Rattlers. Game four was settled in favor of the team from Baggs by 24-26, the slimmest margin possible.

The Rattlers' win in the fourth sent the match into a fifth and final game to settle once and for all who would win. Encampment brought the fight to LSRV, but in the end lost out 9-15.

The athletes from both sides, as well as their cheering sections, we're getting tired after two hours of nonstop volleyball.

For the Lady Tigers, the match against the team from the other side of the Sierra Madre range indicated that the team was resurgent, despite the eventual loss to Baggs.

"I've been coaching 18 years, and in years past we haven't risen up to the challenge," O'Leary said. "This year-the last several years-we have and it's really nice that we were down, gosh like 13-2 in the first game, and we came back and lost by two. It speaks a lot to our mental toughness I think that we don't just give up."

Much of the Tigers' success against the Rattlers' can be attributed to the team's solid defensive play against a team that has proven over and again during the course of the season it can score, and score a lot.

Overall, the Lady Tigers hit an impressive 96 digs and 46 kills against the Rattlers. For digs, senior Hailey Barkhurst led with 22 with junior Noelle Peterson hitting 16. Sophomore Riley Little also hit 14.

Barkhurst also led her team in kills, hitting 16.

Many lowerclassmen were rotated into the roster after Powell left the game because of her migraine. And many brought their A game, contributing heavily to Encampment's stats over the course of the game.

"That says a lot for our bench and how hard they work and what a big part of our team they are," O'Leary said of the team.

O'Leary said from her perspective, even though the team lost to the Rattlers, the game is a sign that the team has hit where it needs to be right when it needs to be there. Over the course of the season, O'Leary has said the goal for the team is to hit its peak around this time in the season and go into regionals and possibly state with everyone hitting on all cylinders.

Even though she says the team has accomplished that goal, it's too early to get too far ahead of themselves, O'Leary said. For the team, whose motto is, "Don't let winning go to your head, don't let losing go to your heart," O'Leary says the most important thing for the team is to focus on the next steps, not the one three or four steps away.

One of those steps is a season game against the Cokeville Lady Panthers, the top-ranked team in the conference.

We still have to play Farson and Cokeville, and that's what we're focusing on right now," O'Leary said. We've got two more conference games we've got to focus on so I'm not even focused on regionals at this point."

The team hit the road to face Cokeville Saturday. "They beat us in three really easy here, so now I expect that we're going to give them a lot harder run for their money this time," O'Leary said.


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