CASPER – It had been five years since Cheyenne Central qualified for the Class 4A state volleyball tournament.
The Lady Indians snapped that streak during last weekend’s regional tournament.
Even so, the process – from warm-ups to game preparation to the environment – was brand new. Nerves were evident.
Central ran into a buzz saw in No. 1-ranked Casper Kelly Walsh on Thursday afternoon and suffered a 25-13, 25-19, 25-12 loss in the first round at Casper Events Center.
“We didn’t really know how this process was going to work, so we were all a little frazzled coming into it, and I think that played a major role in how we played,” Central senior Shelby Murrell said.
Too many unforced errors put the Lady Indians (17-16) in a hole they were never able to climb out of in the opening set. Lady Trojans (33-1) freshman Peyton Carruth gave her team a 1-0 lead in the match with the first of two ace serves.
“(We) could’ve made that game a little closer had we not had those unforced errors,” Indians coach Maggie Hokanson said.
Central was more competitive in the second set, but the result was the same as the first. The Indians went on a 3-0 run to cut the Trojans’ lead to 23-19, but senior Corin Carruth put Kelly Walsh ahead 2-0 with one of her 11 kills.
“This one’s tough,” said Central senior Ellie Fearneyhough, who posted four kills. “We really came out and had a lot of energy at the start, but we got down on ourselves and really started not to believe that we could fight with them.
“Kelly Walsh is a good team, but I think we could’ve stayed with them if we had a lot more energy and confidence in ourselves.”
Losing the second set appeared to zap what little confidence was left in Central. The Indians were ahead 3-1 in the third set before Kelly Walsh went on a 10-3 burst before running away with the set and securing the sweep.
“Our team rallied back in the second set and reduced some of those same unforced errors and were in it trying to get some momentum against a team like Kelly Walsh, who’s always difficult,” Hokanson added. “You have to play solid, and at times we did and at times we didn’t.”
Junior Reese Bradley paced Central with eight kills, while sophomore Jordan Jones registered eight. Murrell posted a team-best three blocks, while freshman Elena Atkinson tallied 16 assists.
Central takes on Star Valley (33-6) at 2:30 p.m. today in an elimination match, while Kelly Walsh goes up against Laramie (19-14) at 6 p.m. today in a state semifinal.