by marlys good
When it comes to the regional tournament, teams know going in that the formula for a bid to the state tournament is simple –win two before you lose two.
The Lady Buffs and Lady Cougars of Wind River found themselves in that position Saturday morning when they faced off across the net in Lander, site of the Class 2A West Regional. Unfortunately, the Lady Cougars of Wind River prevailed.
Greybull took the momentum from Friday’s lopsided victory over Rocky Mountain into the match and won the first game in overtime, 26-24. Things went downhill from there and the Cougars won the next three, 25-18, 25-20, 25-15.
“Wind River got warmed up in game two and then we had some defensive errors we didn’t adjust to,” said Coach Sara Schlattmann. “Wind River has some big hitters that we struggled to defend against.”
Schlattmann said that much of the time when the Buffs lost during the season, it was “errors on our side of the net. But against Wind River we just seemed to get overpowered in games two, three and four. Give credit to Wind River. The Southwest Conference was very strong this year.”
Of the four state qualifiers from this side of the state, Lovell is the only team from the Northwest to advance. They will join Kemmerer (tourney champs), Wind River and Shoshoni in Casper this weekend.
After losing Friday’s opener to the scrappy Lady Blues from Shoshoni 25-15, 23-25, 22-25, 13-25, the Buffs faced a loser-out game with conference foe Rocky Mountain later that evening.
The Grizzlies had upset the Buffs in the final match of regular season and the Buffs were determined to prove that it was an upset and keep their dream of a trip to state alive.
It didn’t take them long to prove their dominance as they routed the Grizzlies in three short games, 25-6, 25-16, 25-8.
They were halfway there; just a single win away from Casper, before they were derailed by Wind River.
Schlattmann said the opening loss to the Lady Blue could be blamed on “a series of small errors over the course of the match; that made the difference.”
She was extremely pleased with the Buffs in the Rocky match. “We played phenomenal and the girls really redeemed themselves for their end-of-season loss. It was so much fun to watch the girls just take control of the match and not look back.”
Summing up her first year as head coach, Schlattmann said she couldn’t be prouder of her team and “how the girls improved over the course of the season. We definitely played some great volleyball; it was so much fun.”
The athletes had set a goal of making it to state and “they were sorely disappointed they did not make it. It is difficult when you don’t quite reach your goal. But we had other goals too. One was to become a true team that worked for each other and not individual gain. I felt like we accomplished that. Our girls worked hard to focus their efforts on believing they could win; they stayed positive, even when things weren’t going their way. Many times we were able to pull through downswings and come back and win games.”
Schlattmann said the Lady Buffs theme for the year was: “And Then Some,” an idea that to be a great team you had to work hard like all teams do; but to be great, you had to do more. It gave us focus for the season.”
The Buffs lose senior leaders Cierra Carlson and McKenna Powers to graduation this year. “I just can’t say enough good things about them,” Schlattmann said.
“They have been hard workers and dedicated athletes ever since I met them. They played significant roles on the team and were integral to our success. I enjoyed them immensely. They set quite a positive example for their teammates. I have appreciated all their hard work this year – and in past years.”
Next year should be another good one for the Buffs who have a solid core of returning players, to go with underclassmen with varsity experience. “It will pay off for us next season,” said the coach.
Schlattmann also praised assistant coach Laura Hodgson. “She was extremely helpful; it was nice to have her perspective when we were making important decisions.”
Christine Farmer, Renae Waddell and Kerri Thiel volunteer their time and that was a big help, Schlattmann said. “Having such a large team, it was nice to have more hands to help with drills.”