The Saratoga Sun -

Tigers take two

Lady Tiger volleyball team secures second at state tournament in Casper


The Encampment Tigers trod off to State Finals in Casper Thursday, and returned home to the Valley with a second-place finish for their efforts.

The Lady Tigers lost the gold by the slimmest of margins, holding the No. 1 team in the conference, the Cokeville Panthers, to a razor thin 2-point win in the fifth game of the championship match after the Panthers rallied, coming back from a 2-0 match deficit. Encampment senior Hailey Barkhurst and junior Paige Powell also took home all-state honors after voting by members of the Wyoming Coach's Association.

The Tigers started their weekend Thursday with a 2:30 match against the Kaycee Lady Bucs at the Casper Event Center. The Lady Tigers sent the Lady Bucs to the consolation round Friday, besting the Bucs authoritatively with scores of 25-16, 25-16 and 25-7 in the three-game match. The Lady Bucs went on the next day to be eliminated in the consolation round by Lingle-Ft. Laramie.

Friday had the Lady Tigers squaring off against the Rams of Dubois in the semi-finals. During the match-the only one of the day for the team-Encampment bested Dubois 25-20, 25-13 and 25-13, again winning decisively with good point margins. The Rams were sent off to face Rock River the next day, eventually falling to Lady Longhorns.

Friday, as Encampment was celebrating its win against Dubois, another important game that would figure in to the Lady Tigers future was happening. At 6 p.m. Friday, the Cokeville Panthers took on the Little Snake River School Rattlers, from Baggs.

Throughout the season, the Panthers and Rattlers were considered the two best teams in the conference, and were considered two of the tougher teams in the state.

In 2016, the Rattlers took home first place at State after Encampment stumbled after coming off a near-perfect season.

At State this year, the Rattlers and Panthers found themselves on the same side of the bracket, and only one of the two could possibly go on to the final match. The two other powerhouse teams of the conference faced off, and Cokeville won the match in four games, 25-20, 20-25, 27-25 and 25-21.

That turn of events ensured that Encampment would have to take on the Cokeville Panthers for first place, a team the Lady Tigers had not defeated during the season. The stage was then set.

Rivals the Rattlers could only hope for third at best.

Saturday afternoon, the Lady Tigers and Lady Panthers suited up for the ultimate event after LSRV clinched third place with its defeat of Lingle-Ft. Laramie.

The match got off to a great start for Encampment, with the Lady Tigers taking the first two games of the match with a score of 25-22 in both, setting the stage for a three-game sweep of the No. 1 rated team in the conference for the honor of being state champions.

The Lady Panthers didn't give up, though, and rallied against the Lady Tigers, taking the next two games by the slim margins of 17-25 21-25. With its rally, Cokeville set the stage for a comeback in the fifth and final game of the match.

The Championship was to come down to one game, which would be played to 15 points.

The Lady Tigers fought hard in the final game, pushing the game into extra points. Eventually the Panthers won by 2 points with a score of 17-15, relegating the Lady Tigers to a second place win.

Last week, head coach Robin O'Leary was confident in her team, but conceded that facing off against some teams the team had not played during the regular season was a bit of a concern. "There are teams on our side of the bracket we haven't seen yet and that could be a challenge," O'Leary told the Saratoga Sun last week.

The team's flexibility and the fact they never gave up was the team's secret weapon, though, and second place win at state only went to show that the players, school and town of Encampment have a lot to be proud of.


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