Third-place finish propels Buffs to State

Marlys Good

The Buffs wanted it. They entered the Class 2A West Regional in Lander with one goal – to earn a trip to Casper. Mission accomplished. Now on to the next challenge.

The Buffs knew going in the classic rule is that to earn a trip to State, you have to win two matches before you lose two. They did that in spades. They lost just one match and won three.

They opened against Big Piney and took the Punchers 20-25, 25-19, 25-25, 25-16, setting up a second-round match with conference foe and top-seed Rocky Mountain. The match was hard fought, with the Buffs winning set one 25-17, losing the second match in overtime, 26-28, and then losing the third and fourth sets, and the match, 17-25, 14-25.

That was the team’s only loss. They got by Wind River in a loser-out match, 25-19, 26-24, 25-18. That win cinched the trip to State, and the third win, over Kemmerer, 26-24, 25-21, 25-19, gave Greybull a third seed.

“What a weekend,” said Coach Sara Schlattmann. “I am super proud of these girls for just digging in and believing in themselves. We really played some great volleyball this weekend. Overall, I felt like our passing and serving were much stronger which ultimately allowed for our attack to improve. It is something we have been focusing on so I was thrilled to see it all come together.”

Schlattmann went back to the opening match with Big Piney. “We started off a bit sluggish,” she said. After losing the first set, the Buffs just dug down deep, turned things around and won the next three sets and the match. According to the coach, her team served its best of the year – 96%; Caroline Boyer served 24 of 24 including 6 aces; Kelsie McColloch, Fatima Chavez, Josselyn Jara and Kate Briscoe all served 100%.

Boyer led the team in both passing and digs (8). The Buff attack was split between Briscoe (8), Kelsie M (11) and Aleksey McColloch (9). Chaise Benasky was credited with 25 assists.

Moving on to the loss to the Lady Grizzlies, Schlattmann said her team started out “fantastic.” “The girls really were playing well.  Greybull won the first set 25-17. The very tight, very exciting second game went down to the wire before the Buffs lost, 26-28. Schlattmann said the momentum shifted to Rocky Mountain at that point. Despite playing hard, Greybull lost the last two sets and the match.

Serving was still strong at 90%, led by Kelsie McColloch and Chavez, both at 100$.

 Briscoe, Aleksey and Kelsie had 11, 10 and 9 kills respectively; Kennedy Craft added 5 more. Boyer once again led in passing and defensively had 13 digs. “This was a tough loss and we really just emphasized the need to move on, not dwell on this, because the next match was going to determine if we had the opportunity to get to State.”

  Wind River was probably the most important match of the two days – it was a MUST win, and Schlattmann termed it a “match of redemption,” explaining they had lost to the Cougars the week prior to regionals. “This was our chance to prove that we were the stronger team.” Again, a strong serving performance was a key, 96%. Kelsie M., Chavez and Jara were perfect from the line; Benasky had a great performance from the line, 93% with 3 aces.

   Schlattmann said good passing resulted in a ”strong, diverse” attack. Aleksey led the way with 13 kills, Benasky and Kelsie had 11 each and Craft had 5. “Chaise did a great job getting the balls to our hitters and tallied 35 assists,” according to her coach.

   The pressure was off in the Buffs final game with Kemmerer. Although placement at State was important, the Buffs knew they were State-bound. With the pressure off, they could play relaxed. As a result, serving, a 98%, was the best of the year “Every server  did fantastic and that is all you can ask for from your team. We have talked all year about being a more consistent serving team and when we needed it most they really stepped up.”

Boyer and Benasky topped the defense with 11 and 7 digs respectively. The offense was run by Benasky, who had the majority of the assists; the McColloch sisters shared the top spot for kills, both with 11, followed by Benasky with 8 and Craft with 4. 

Schlattmann said she was so thrilled to see how everything came together a just the right time. 

 “I want to be sure to highlight all of our athletes who have come off the bench for us and did phenomenal. Ashley Gomez stepped in at middle and I appreciated her jumping into a position that she hadn’t played much this season. She did just what we asked of her and I appreciate her effort. Fatima Chavez and Josselyn Jara both have been great additions to our serving and again, I appreciate their effort. And more importantly, I think this team knows that everyone on our team has an important role whether they are in the game or not. We wouldn’t win the matches we do without all of them.”


Buffs face Burns

The Lady Buffs open State play Thursday against Burns, a team they played at the Big Horn Tournament earlier in the season with what Schlattmann called “mixed” results. “We have to be aggressive against  them because they have a  strong offense and easy passes over the net will allow them to stay in system and that may be tough to defend. They are very beatable and our focus will continue to be on keeping our side of the net clean and tightening up our defense.”  

The match begins at 4:30.

Sharing the bracket with Greybull and Burns are Rocky Mountain, the West Regional champs, and Tongue River, who finished fourth at the East Regional. The Grizzlies and Lady Eagles play Thursday at 3 p.m. Winners of the two matches will face off Friday at 4:30 in the semi-finals. The two losing teams drop into the consolation round and meet on the court Friday at 1 p.m.

The other side of the bracket includes East Regional Champion Big Horn who will open against Kemmerer, and West regional runner-up Shoshoni who will take on Wright.

Schlattmann said it is very exciting to get back to State. “It has been our goal all season. But truly, we will be looking to compete at a high level against some very good competition. It will be fun.”