Gallery by Greg Barnett
Gardner – Pressure reaches a peak during the postseason.
For a program unaccustomed to volleyball success, Wyoming East is either immune to that pressure or too young to know any better.
Regardless the Lady Warriors are pleased with the results thus far.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, Wyoming East swept PikeView 3-0 to secure the Class AA Region 3, Section 2 championship Tuesday at PikeView.
With the win East advances to the regional round where it will play the section 1 runner-up Saturday at Independence with a state tournament berth on the line.
After earning a spot in Tuesday’s title game following Monday’s showing, the Lady Warriors sat on the sideline awaiting the winner of PikeView-Westside. Following the Panthers’ victory, if there was any hope they would parlay the momentum to a quick start, it was quickly squashed.
East scored the first three points of the first set, jumping out to a 10-2 lead. PikeView added its third point to quell the momentum but 12 straight featuring a trio of consecutive aces from East freshman Carli Raye handed the visitors a 22-3 lead.
“Last night we noticed when we put pressure on them they kind of crumbled a little bit,” East head coach Tabitha Lusk said. “That was out goal tonight – to come out and apply pressure from our front row and for our back row to be ready to dig their ball because they have some hard hitters. It wasn’t solely offensive, we had to play defense as well.”
The Panthers battled, adding five points in the match before dropping the opening stanza 25-8.
“That’s the same thing that happened last night too,” PikeView coach Steve Compton said. “If you’d have saw them last night, they were lights out. The very first play they came out and punched us in the face. To our credit they battled, when we had the opportunities we just gave it back to them. The momentum swing is like crazy and you just can’t give it back. They’re just really good.”
The second set saw a more balanced match with six ties, the last coming at 9-9. East took control afterwards, scoring the next three points and ultimately winning 25-18.
If anything though it was a notice the Panthers weren’t going to just lie down for the sweep, something East discovered quickly.
On their last leg the Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead and stretching it to 12-7.
Regrouping, the Lady Warriors cut the deficit to a point four different times, tying it from points 17 to 22. Needing a final push, they found one, scoring the last three points to secure the sectional title with a 25-22 win.
“Our girls can battle and I’ll never lose faith in this group,” Lusk said. “I’ve watched them battle back from as much as 10 down and come back and win a gem. When we get down I try to call them over to the side and Coach Stacy and I tell them to think about practice. When we think about practice we set a score of five down so they’re constantly battling back when scrimmaging against each other. We remind of them of our fundamentals and drills we practice and they know those things by heart. Once they realize this is no different than what we do to get ready they can settle themselves down.”
When the final point was scored it elicited celebration as the East bench charged the court and for good reason. Lusk believes it’s the first sectional title in program history.
“This title means the world to us,” Lusk said. “I may be wrong but I don’t think Wyoming East has ever won a sectional title. To the best of my knowledge we were runners up in 2002 so it’s been two decades since we’ve been a team to compete with. This is a goal these girls have worked for years and I’m over the moon.
“The middle school programs have really helped our high school program. Some of our girls came in as freshmen never playing volleyball so we had to start with the fundamentals and it made it really hard to complete against teams that started in elementary school. Our middle school teams are pretty well establish now so our girls coming in as freshmen can play ball and are ready to compete. That’s made a world of difference for us.”
PikeView also advances to the regional round where it will face the winner of Section 1 in an elimination game Saturday at Independence.
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