State Champs!

Posted 11/4/08

The Lady Rangers didn't make it easy, however. They reached the finals by upsetting defending champion Wheatland in an intense five-game semifinal contest, and they brought that momentum into the finals, taking and holding leads through most of the …

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State Champs!


Girls bring home PHS's second volleyball championship When they first stepped on the volleyball court this fall, the Powell High School Lady Panthers wanted nothing less than a state championship. On Saturday night, they got it.The Lady Panthers capped their 3A championship season with a hard-fought, 3-0 win over the Kemmerer Lady Rangers at the Casper Events Center Saturday. The victory gave the Lady Panther volleyball program its first state title since 1987. It also is only the second volleyball title in the school's history.

The Lady Rangers didn't make it easy, however. They reached the finals by upsetting defending champion Wheatland in an intense five-game semifinal contest, and they brought that momentum into the finals, taking and holding leads through most of the first set. Powell managed to tie the first game twice, but didn't lead until they finally forged ahead 21-20. From that point, the Lady Panthers kept the advantage and pulled off a 25-23 win to take the important first set on a Kami Cooley kill.

Game two was more of the same until the Panthers took charge at the net by blocking three successive Ranger attacks for kills. PHS pulled away for a 25-17 win.

At the break, as the Lady Panthers gathered at the water cooler, Hannah Pollart, one of the squad's leaders, spoke up in the huddle and encouraged her teammates to maintain their intensity.

“Let's not let up, now,” Pollart said. “Let's win it now.”

The Lady Panthers obliged by roaring to an 18-8 lead before holding off a late rally by the Lady Rangers. In the end, it was Pollart who scored match point with the last of the 44 kills she scored in the tournament. Her final point of the season sealed the victory and kicked off an emotion-filled celebration by the Lady Panthers.

As they have all year, the Lady Panthers earned their win with hard work, a fierce focus on their goal and excellent teamwork.

Speaking for the team, Pollart said, “We're just such a family. We push each other so hard, and that's what did it.”

Senior Kelsey Allen had to search for words to explain her feelings, but like Pollart, she said the team effort was important.

“I'm glad we did it, and did it as a team,” Allen said.

Savannah Donarski echoed that thought.

“We support each other, and we did it together,” Donarski said. “I love it, and I love my team.”

The win was a sweet one for PHS head coach Cindi Smith, who as a PHS junior, played a key role in Powell's only other volleyball championship, which was delivered via an upset win over Worland in 1987.

Smith gave credit for this year's title to the girls' hard work throughout the season.

“They came into the season working hard, and didn't quit,” Smith said. “They set a goal, and they pushed themselves to work hard to reach it.”

Her team's unselfish attitude and support for each other were also important, said Smith, who recently was named West Regional Co-Coach of the year.

“You don't win like this unless your focus is on the team,” Smith said.

Noting that three of last year's players, Abby Pollart, Kali Fagnant and Katie Patterson watched Saturday's championship match, Smith said the win belonged to them as well.

In the end, the three-day tournament didn't go quite as expected. An expected battle with the East Regional powers vanished when Rawlins, ranked ahead of Powell all season, fell in the first round to Lyman and when Kemmerer defeated top-ranked Wheatland.

Powell's march to the championship turned into a replay of the West Regional Tournament. After taking Buffalo in four sets, 25-18, 25-15, 25-27, 25-12, they found themselves playing Lyman for the third time this season. And despite a determined Lyman effort in the second set, PHS swept the Lady Eagles 25-15, 25-21, 25-16.

For the tournament, Pollart's 44 kills led the team. Donarski was close behind with 40. Donarski assisted on 13 blocks to lead the team in that category.

Kelsey Allen led the backline defense for PHS with 52 digs, while Olivia Rogers contributed 43 and Donarski added 36.

As they have done all season, the Lady Panthers consistently put their serves in play. Lauren Fagnant was nearly perfect, missing only one serve in three games, and Asay, Pollart, and Rogers each had a perfect game from the service line. As a team, the Lady Panthers served 21 aces, nine of them in the championship match. Randi Asay accounted for five in the opening match with Buffalo, and Pollart served three in the finals.

If there was a downside to the win, it was that the Lady Panthers never had a rematch with Wheatland, the team that kept them from the finals last year. But after talking to some Wheatland players, Donarski said that could happen next year.

“They told us ‘we're coming back for that,'” Donarski said.

With all but two players returning next year, the Lady Panthers should be back as well, Smith said.

“We have girls who love the game,” Smith said. “They have a passion for the game, and that's what it takes.”

How passionate are they?