CASPER – During the Class 4A East Regional final against Cheyenne East last week, Laramie looked completely out of sync.
Its usual potent offense was, for the most part, shut down. Its stout defense was exploited.
Laramie spent most of the week hammering away at those details.
The results paid off when the Lady Plainsmen dispatched Star Valley 25-16, 25-22, 25-19 in a 4A state tournament quarterfinal late Thursday night at the Casper Events Center.
“Our mindset was to try and stay high the whole entire game and keep our side of the court strong and controlled,” Laramie senior outside hitter Jessica Crane said. “Last time they beat us, and I think it was because they were a little bit more mentally into the game. So, our goal was to try and stay in the game the whole time mentally and physically.”
Indeed, the Lady Braves came away with a three-set win over the Lady Plainsmen back on Sept. 27 in Laramie.
But that was more than a month ago.
Thursday’s match was a completely different tale.
Laramie (19-14) was crisp from the opening serve. Crane, who finished with 10 kills, slammed one to the floor early in the first set to push her team out in front 7-5. The Lady Plainsmen kept building from there and eventually leaned on a 9-2 run to move ahead 21-10 before taking a 1-0 lead in the match.
“We changed a lot this week in terms of changing our offensive speed and where we wanted to distribute the ball and, we passed great, which really allowed us to (score),” Laramie coach Becky Baker said.
Hanging on to that momentum proved to be no problem for Laramie.
Back-to-back aces from sophomore standout Alexis Stucky handed the Lady Plainsmen an 11-4 advantage. The 2018 4A state runners-up marched ahead 14-7 and eventually had to hang on to grab a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
A big reason Laramie able to sustain momentum was the play of its defense. Stucky and senior Morgan Brown each posted five blocks, while sophomore Halley Feezer and freshman Taylor Tyser scooped 15 digs.
“We were able to put a lot of pressure on them with our serves, and then the combination of our block with our floor defense was all over the place, which was fantastic,” Baker said. “They were working together to get anything off the floor.”
Laramie had little trouble in the third set, even though Star Valley pulled within a point of tying it before sophomore Morgan Jensen sent Laramie into the semifinals with her fourth kill of the night.”
Laramie takes on No. 1-ranked Casper Kelly Walsh (33-1) at 6 p.m. today. Laramie lost to Kelly Walsh 2-0 back on Aug. 30.
“They’re an amazing team, so solid,” Baker added. “They do some great things. I think we match up with them really well size-wise, and if we can force them to have to make plays and not give them too many free points, I think we can really compete with them and see who comes out on top.”