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2013 a look back: Volleyball gets hot at the right time

To call it a David-versus-Goliath tale would be unfair, and also gender-inaccurate, but the fourth-seeded PHS volleyball team had to be viewed as a longshot to win its first 3A title since 2008.

But that’s exactly what the Panthers did, beating two No. 2 seeds and a No. 1 seed in a three-day tournament that ended in an exuberant celebration on Nov. 2.

Senior Tori Sleep registered the final kill against the Douglas Bearcats in the championship match, creating a moment she could hardly believe.

“I really just have no words,” Sleep said. “I wanted this so bad.”

The talent-rich Panthers hovered near the top of the western conference’s standings all season, but a letdown in the regional tournament dropped them to No. 4 heading into state.

The Panthers opened the tourney with a 3-1 win over the East’s No. 1 Rawlins Outlaws, beat West rival Jackson Hole 3-1 in the semis and then claimed the title with yet another 3-1 victory.

Head coach Cindi Smith said the championship was the result of “the ultimate team effort.”

Freshman Kalina Smith led the Panthers in kills in each match and totaled 67 in the tournament on her way to what she hopes is the first of many titles.

“It was the most amazing feeling ever,” she said.

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