For the first time since 2005, the NCHS volleyball team will be part of the 2A State Tournament. The Lady Tigers ended the drought with a fourth place finish last weekend in Sundance at the 2A East Regionals. “It’s a surreal feeling,” said Trisha Hales. “Awesome,” came out of a few other seniors Monday afternoon.
First up was the host team-who just happened to #1 in the WyoPreps Top 5, and beating everyone with little resistance. NCHS was with Sundance early on and after Miranda Gilkey reeled off five service points in a row the set was tied at 13. Behind a boisterous home crowd the Lady Bulldogs pulled away to win the first set 25-18. The second was also close until Telia McInerney went on a serving spree with seven in a row to put Sundance up 18-11, before winning 25-15. As the Lady Tigers faltered, the home team cruised in the third set 25-6.
Just a few hours later the Lady Tigers faced a depleted Glenrock in a loser-out game. The Lady Herders had disciplinary issues with a handful of key players earlier in the week, and having to throw inexperienced girls into the fire. Junior Ashley Christianson got Lusk off fast with four from the line-as Gilkey put two of them in the floor. She drilled another pair pushing the lead to 15-7 en route to the 25-14 win. Glenrock hung tough until Taylor Gaukel put up five points and Hales’ kill moved it to 17-10. The Lady Herders would not go away just yet until Reygan Molzan buried the 24th point and Hales’ block secured the 25-21 win in three.
Saturday morning in another loser-out game the Lady Tigers faced Upton, another team they had beaten twice earlier in the season. The Lady Bobcats were in command most of the first set and on the doorstep of closing it out, ahead 21-18. Hales and Molzahn timed a block to get within 23-21, before stealing the win 26-24. Christianson opened up a tight second set with four points from the line, before Gaukel took over. She pounded a pair of kills past Upton and served the way to the 25-17 win for NCHS. In a chance to close it out, the Lady Tigers were back and forth with Upton before the Lady Bobcats won 25-18. The fire was lit in the Lady Tigers eyes as they jumped to a 7-3 lead and when Molzahn and Hales stuffed another it was suddenly 13-5. Gilkey and Amanda Smith put down points 20 and 21 as the red and white faithful began to celebrate. Gaukel had a pair of kills and Hales another as NCHS punched their ticket to Casper with authority in the 25-12 four set win.
Just three hours later the Lady Tigers had to regroup and try to claim third place against Big Horn. From the outset it was clear the Lusk tank was completely empty as the Lady Rams won 25-15, 25-21 and 25-13. “I think we were emotionally drained more than anything,” said Head Coach Sandra Johnson. “We spent so much energy in that Upton game.”
NCHS TEAM STATS: Serving 246/263, 17 aces. Kills/atts- 100/373, 27 percent. Assists- 89. Blocks- 28. Digs 246/335, 73 percent.
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Serving- Christianson 47/47; Smith 48/49; Gaukel 33/36; Gilkey 53/58; Hales 31/34, 6 aces. Kills- Gaukel 23; Hales 21; Molzahn 19; Smith 19; Gilkey 18. Assists- Christianson 86. Blocks- Smith 14; Hales 5; Molzahn 5. Digs- Gaukel 55; Hales 52; Gilkey 32; Smith 29; Christianson 29.
The Lady Tigers were without the services of Emma Ceaglske for the second week in a row as she is recovering from an ankle injury, but the senior practiced Monday and is hopeful she can contribute. Gaukel’s right hand is a bit sore and Hales has an injured ankle, but both are expected to play.
Lusk is now 20-8 on the season and will face the top seed from the West Conference as Big Piney has put together a similar 20-7 season. The Lady Punchers do have experience on the Casper Events Center floor as they finished fourth last year. But as the seniors mentioned; “Those West schools are probably wondering Lusk, who are they?” quipped Smith. Gilkey added, “We may not know anything about them, but they don’t know us either.” Game time is 6 p.m. Thursday. All brackets and ticket prices are available at whsaa.org.