Sublette Examiner | Lady Punchers enjoys a moment in the State Tournament

CASPER – The Sundance Bulldogs burst onto the pitch, defeating the Big Piney Lady Punchers in the first two sets of their quarterfinal game at the 2021 State Volleyball tournament in Casper.

Big Piney entered the third set determined to strike back.

Sundance delivered a particularly hard blow, kept alive by Big Piney senior Sierra Keiter. Junior Shelby Guest ran into the backcourt, digging deep and returning it to Keiter.

Keiter passed the ball over the net. Sundance made the rally. Senior Jocie Banks prepped the ball for senior Cela Sambrano.

The Punchers passed Sundance and held onto their lead for most of the third set. Sundance eventually took the lead 3-0, but the Punchers’ rally in the third set proved their mettle amid the chaotic atmosphere and high pressure that accompanies a state tournament.

Sundance entered the field with a significant advantage. The Bulldogs knew their way around the Ford Wyoming Center as the 2019 2A State Champion and 2020 finalist.

The varsity Punchers team arrived in Casper on November 4, news in the vortex swirling around them – bright lights, dozens of referees making calls, hundreds of fans cheering on eight different teams.

As the first set began, with so many whistles, the Lady Punchers didn’t realize they had scored the first point until the ball rolled under the net. The Big Piney players took a few minutes to get used to having the volunteers pick up volleyballs and hand them over to the servers.

“I think it took us a little longer to get used to the terrain than it should have,” Banks said. “It was really loud and hectic in this gym. We had to maintain our communication and our blinders so as not to be distracted.

“It was very exciting to be here at State, but it was a whole different atmosphere,” said senior Hanna Hansen.

The Lady Punchers quickly learned to stimulate each other with the right attitude.

“We had to stay positive,” Sambrano said. “We had to cheer ourselves up, at every point. Even if it was a bad point, we could correct this mistake easily and instantly with positive attitudes. We kind of got into the groove after getting a few wins (in the third set). “

The loss to Sundance propelled the Punchers to the consolation semifinals where they faced the Tongue River Eagles.

Tongue River took the victory 3-0, but not without a fight from Big Piney in the first and last set.

Despite ending the season before they would have preferred it, the senior team captains appreciated the lessons the experience provided for next year’s varsity team.

“We have learned that we have to go out hungry,” said Hansen. “No one is going to give it to us and we can’t give it to them either.”

Head coach Kinsy Voss agreed that while playing at State was exciting, it was “a little overwhelming” at first.

“Big Piney held back a bit, took them a lot longer than usual to get comfortable on the pitch,” she said. “It hurt us in turn.”

Voss added that the team has grown stronger under the pressure.

“I had a few girls who really stood up and played at State and had their best game there,” she said. “Hannah Runyan dominated the net. She kept the majority of Sundance hits on her side. Jocie Banks also stood out not only in attack with her sets, but also in defense at net and last row. Another cry is our libero Shelby Guest. His hustle and bustle is just out of this world. She will sacrifice a lot just to touch a ball.


Runyan scored the Punchers’ first point in the first set with a block. Senior Lena Hatch delivered a kill for point 3.

Sundance hit the net as he returned a serve from Hansen. The Bulldogs fired from a point streak, although Runyan, Sambrano and Hansen managed to kill, aided by Hansen. Runyan scored the 13 point before Sundance scored a set point, 25-13.

The Bulldogs turned up the heat in the second set, establishing a five-point lead from the start and taking the win, 25-15.

Runyan put the Punchers on the scoreboard with a block. Sambrano has passed one point. Junior Brynne Hoffman served point 4.

Hatch blocked the return of Sundance after a deep dig by Guest and a shot from Hansen. Hatch, Keiter, Runyan, and Guest each slammed for eliminations. The guest has obtained point 15.

In the third set, Big Piney pushed his heels down. Runyan picked up the Punchers’ second point. A hit from Sambrano propelled Big Piney into the lead.

The kills fired by Hatch and Keiter supported the momentum of the Punchers. Hansen scored point 6. Keiter scored point 7 with a block. Runyan followed up with a kill.

Banks and Runyan got points 9, 10 and 11.

Sundance snuck in and took the lead until Sambrano knocked the ball over, tying the set at point 13. A kill by Hatch, assisted by Banks, equalized the game again at point 14.

Sundance took the lead, although a tip from Hatch and hits from Runyan and Hansen kept the Punchers on the Bulldogs’ heels. Sundance finally scored match point, 25-20.

Language river

The first set has turned into a radiator. The Eagles scored the first points. Runyan delivered an ace, putting Big Piney in the lead.

Tongue River passed the Punchers before Hansen and Keiter shot a string of kills. Tongue River kicked the ball out of bounds and the set tied at point 9.

An ace from Banks, a kill from Sambrano and a block played by Runyan allowed Big Piney to take the initiative. The Eagles caught up until Hatch scored two points at the net.

Tongue River regained the lead with Big Piney just one or two points away. Hatch killed for point 15. Tongue River hit on a Guest serve. Runyan knocked down the 19 point. Hansen slammed two kills, helped by Banks.

Hansen and Hatch’s defensive network resulted in point 22 for the Punchers.

Tongue River edged ahead by three points to win the set, 25-22.

The Eagles showed no mercy in the second set, taking the lead on the first point and widening the gap to establish the point at 25-13. Sambrano, Hatch and Runyan each increased kills and Guest scored a point.

Big Piney put up a stronger defense in the third set. Hoffman hit point 3. Hatch knocked down point 5 followed by a set from Banks for point 6.

Hansen got on point 7. Runyan ended up killing for point 11. The Eagles got tangled in the net on two serves from Runyan. Keiter scored the 17 point with a Banks assisted kill. Runyan tapped on point 18.

The Eagles scored game point, 25-18.

Coach Voss said she was pleased with the team’s excellent season – going undefeated in conference and finishing third at the Regionals.

“Our season was one we should all be proud of. Lady Red has one of the best work ethic I have ever had the chance to be a part of. Their motivation makes you want to be a better coach. We will all miss the seniors, they definitely improved this program. As for the years to come, coach Jess Nugent and I look forward to continuing to improve this program.

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