Lady Buffs finish unbeaten in conference play

Nathan Oster

Face St. Stephens in regional tournament  opener in Riverton

The Greybull Lady Buffs went into last weekend’s matches against Shoshoni and Big Horn knowing that they’d already wrapped up the Northwest Conference title and a No. 1 seed for the upcoming Class 2A West Regional.  
The only questions left to answer were whether they’d enter the postseason as an unbeaten league champion, and how they would measure up against the top-ranked Rams in an intriguing non-conference matchup Saturday afternoon at Buff Gym.
Coach Sara Schlattmann’s team split the two contests, surviving a five-set nailbiter in Shoshoni Friday by scores of 24-26, 25-19, 25-18, 16-25, 15-12 before succumbing to the Rams in a three-setter at Buff Gym by scores of 14-25, 29-27, 17-25.
The Lady Buffs didn’t play to their potential against the Lady Blue, finishing with 12 blocking errors and 21 attack errors which, according to Schlattmann, “created a scenario that allowed Shoshoni to carry the momentum.
“I felt like Shoshoni was out-hustling us throughout much of the match, but primarily, we seemed to have a bit of an off night,” said Schlattmann. “That being said, we had some players really step up for us.  Kennedy Craft had her best match of the season with 10 kills, 2 aces, 14 digs, and 100% serving.  Perla Rodriquez also played a great match with 7 kills and 4 blocks. 
“Collectively we served strong, at 96%.  Caroline Boyer had 13 digs and Josslyn Jara did a great job of passing out of serve receive.  Kelsie and Aleksey McColloch led the team in kills with 12 apiece, and Benasky continued to hustle with 32 assists.  And in the end, these girls showed that they could battle through and get the win.”
Saturday’s matchup with the Rams was a showdown of the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in 2A.  
“They have a couple of big hitters and we simply weren’t able to defend them to the level needed to win,” said Schlattmann. “But I definitely know that we can.”
The Lady Buffs served a very clean match at 96%.  Boyer, Jara, Benasky and Kelsie McColloch were all 100%. Said Schlattmann, “Against this team I do feel like we needed to be a bit more aggressive with our serves to keep them out of system.  But I will take that stat any day!” 
Aleksey McColloch had 11 kills, Kelsie McColloch 6, Kennedy Craft 4 and Perla Rodriguez had 2.  Benasky had 21 assists. Aleksey McColloch and Rodriguez had 6 and 2 blocks, respectively.  Boyer led the way with passing, accumulating 21 good passes out of serve receive and 8 digs.  Kelsie McColloch had 20 passes and 5 digs. 
“We had them in game two but were not quite able to finish off the set,” said Schlattmann. “But the girls should have seen that they can play with this team.  We have to stay aggressive and minimize errors in order to win these matches.”
Postseason preview
Win two before you lose two.  That’s always the goal heading into the eight-team regional, which will be held this year in Riverton rather than Lander.  But after such a strong regular season, the Lady Buffs are thinking bigger than simply qualifying for state.
They face St. Stephens in Friday’s opening round.  The match will be at the high school and it’s expected to start around 2:30 p.m.  Win or lose, they’ll play again at 7:30 p.m., facing either Big Piney or Shoshoni.
While the Lady Buffs haven’t faced St. Stephens this year, Schlattmann said she wants her team to be focused on a clean, low-error performance.
“We won’t be overlooking any of these teams,” she said. “Shoshoni has certainly come on as of late, despite the loss of a key player.  Rocky has a strong block and has continued to improve. 
“I don’t know a lot about the Southwest teams, but Kemmerer goes in at No. 1 and plays a pretty competitive schedule all year, so their overall record may not reflect their ability.   I think this side of the state is pretty evenly matched.”
The top four teams earn trips to the state tournament to be held Nov. 2-4 in Casper.  When asked to size up the East, Schlattmann said, “I would suspect that Big Horn will continue to perform well.  I think Tongue River, Wright, Burns, Pine Bluffs and Sundance will be battling it out.  That is a very competitive conference that has traditionally performed well at state.”