Powell’s Lady Panthers came agonizingly close to getting to play for third place at the WHSAA Class 3A State Volleyball Championships in Casper over the weekend.
The Lady Panthers bounced back from an opening-round 25-19, 25-10, 25-22 loss to defending state champion Douglas on Thursday to beat Torrington 25-18, 25-12, 25-16 on Friday and make it to the heartbreak round on Saturday morning, where a win would mean a chance to play for third place. However, Powell could not get over the hump against Mountain View, losing 25-12, 13-25, 25-13, 25-17 to the Buffaloes. That ended the Lady Panthers’ season with a record of 21-15-1.
Despite not bringing home a trophy from state, PHS coach Randi Bonander is proud of how her team did at the state tournament.
“It says a lot to be the first team back to state when not one of these girls have ever been at the state venue,” coach Bonander said. “It is overwhelming, but such an honor to step on that court and know that your hard work and dedication to your team has paid off. Although we fell short of our ultimate goal, the girls worked hard to be in the top five at state.”
“Over the season, they continually made adjustments and took on new responsibilities, which sometimes included new positions, defense, and teammates,” the coach added. “Overall, this team had a successful season not only due to their record, but the fact that they took on responsibility of being positive leaders [and] role models for all the underclassmen to carry on the tradition.”
Lyman rallied from a two-set deficit to beat Rawlins for the state championship, while Douglas downed Mountain View for third.
Douglas 3, Powell 0
When the Lady Panthers and Douglas met at the Rawlins Invite on Sept. 8, Powell downed the Lady Bearcats in two sets.
It was a different story Thursday afternoon in Casper, as Douglas raced out to a 14-6 lead in the opening set to seize control of the match.
Powell made it close in the third set, taking a 17-16 lead at one point and forging a 22-all tie late in the match. However, the Lady Bearcats scored the final three points of the set, taking the set and match on an Allyson Fertig kill.
“I truly believe that having the experience of being at state plays into being ready for the first match of the entire weekend,” coach Bonander said. “No excuses, just facts that have an effect on athletes. They did adjust to make the first set close, but we just couldn’t seem to find our rhythm to overtake the Bearcats. The Bearcats also have a four-time All-State player along with a long-standing successful program.”
Fertig led Douglas with 14 kills, while Haedyn Rhoades added 12 and Joslin Igo finished with 11.
Aubrie Stenerson led the Lady Panthers with five kills, while Hartly Thorington added four. Devon Curtis and Rachel Bonander each had three blocks, while Ostermiller added eight assists. Ostermiller and Ashtyn Heny each had a team-high nine digs.
Powell 3, Torrington 0
In its first consolation game at state — a must-win contest — Powell shook off a bit of a slow start to sweep the Lady Trailblazers.
The Lady Panthers led just 13-12 in the opening set before scoring eight of the next 10 points to take control of the set and grab needed momentum.
In the third set, the Lady Trailblazers forged a 10-10 tie, but Powell kept them from taking the lead and eventually scored 10 of the last 14 points of the match to close out the set and the contest.
“The girls were ready to regroup after Thursday and prepare for Torrington on Friday,” coach Bonander said. “We watched some film, talked about the aspects of the game that we can control and how we would accomplish this. The girls really worked at serving and playing strategically on offense. On defense, communication was the key to making adjustments and digging every ball up.”
Stenerson again led the Lady Panthers with five kills, while the trio of Thorington, Curtis and Rachel Bonander each had four. Bonander had four blocks and Sabrina Shoopman added three, while Ostermiller had 10 assists and Gabi Metzler added eight. Stenerson had 17 digs and Heny added 12.
Mountain View 3, Powell 1
On Saturday against Mountain View, Powell again struggled at the beginning, falling behind 18-6 at one point in the opening set.
However, the Lady Panthers dominated the second set, leading almost the entire way to tie the match and seemingly getting much-needed momentum against a Mountain View team they’d lost to earlier in the year.
But the Lady Buffaloes wasted little time getting the momentum back in the third set, scoring the first eight points to once again take control of the match. In the fourth set, Powell took a 3-1 lead on Jazlyn Haney’s kill, but Mountain View answered by scoring 10 of the next 13 points and never trailed again.
“The girls came in focused on what they would do individually to help the team be successful as a whole,” coach Bonander said. “Meeting up with Mountain View again, we talked about all aspects of how to take advantage of their weaknesses, which are few, but their libero is one of the best in the state. She just knows the court, can read hitters, and moves quickly to wherever she needs to be to keep the ball up. The girls did work hard for the win in the second set, but just seemed to be two steps behind throughout the third and fourth sets.”
Rachel Bonander had eight kills in her final match, while Stenerson added six and the duo of Haney and Thorington each finished with four. Stenerson had 23 digs and Thorington added 12, while Metzler had 10 assists and Ostermiller finished with nine.
Seniors bow out on big stage
The state tournament also represented the final game for nine Lady Panther seniors — Heny, Stenerson, Ostermiller, Haney, Thorington, Curtis, Jasmyne Lensegrav, Becky McConahay and Rachel Bonander. Many of the seniors have been teammates since elementary school on club teams, adding to the bond that they have on and off the court.
“We played some really great volleyball this weekend and accomplished many of our goals for the season,” coach Bonander said. “It was a difficult end to the season, mostly because these nine seniors worked so hard and talked through so many challenges to make sure their last season would be successful.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of these seniors,” the coach added. “They faced challenges and embraced new roles throughout the season to keep a positive attitude for the entire Lady Panther volleyball team.”
And it was a successful season for the Lady Panthers — 21 wins, a 3A Northwest quadrant title to go along with an undefeated record in quadrant play and of course, a trip to state.
“The most important aspect of this snapshot in their life is how they respond to the successes and failures,” coach Bonander said. “It’s easy to just walk away and say, ‘Well, we should have ...,’ but really taking each experience and applying it to their life in a positive way and figuring out how to handle it better next time or in another similar situation.”
“Lady Panthers will always have an ‘attitude of gratitude,’” she said.