CHEYENNE – Nicole Quigley had been waiting for this moment all season.
The Cheyenne East coach knew the potential of her volleyball club, but she hadn’t quite fully seen it yet.
Until Saturday night, that is.
The Lady Thunderbirds dominated Laramie 25-17, 25-14, 19-25, 25-12 to capture the Class 4A East Regional championship and the No. 1 seed heading into next week’s state tournament in Casper.
“We were firing on all cylinders, finally,” Quigley said. “I think right now we continually progressed each game that we played during regionals, and this team has so much potential.”
The No. 3-ranked T-Birds (28-6) honed in on Laramie 6-foot-2 sophomore hitter Alexis Stucky, who was named 4A East Conference player of the year following the match. Completely shutting Stucky down is nearly impossible because of her skill, but East did plenty to contain her and limit her opportunities on the attack.
“She’s unstoppable,” Quigley said. “She hits over the top of the block, so just making adjustments on that. Their outside, Jessica (Crane), she was a dominant force against us last time. We went into the match knowing that those were the two girls that led their team, and we tried to control them as much as possible. But, at the same time, we wanted to play our type of game and keep the tempo that we’ve been working on all week.”
The first set was more like a tug-of-war match. At least early on, anyway. There were 11 lead changes and 10 ties throughout the first 25 points of the match until East used an 8-0 run to open a 20-13 advantage. That spark of offense led the T-Birds to a 1-0 lead in the match.
“This previous week in practice we had some coaches come in and we really got working on individual work, which really helped us a ton coming into this weekend,” East senior Madison Blaney said. “Our energy was great. Everything just came in one.”
Blaney finished with a team-high 11 kills and added 11 more digs.
The second set was much like the first at the beginning, with a similar result at the end. The T-Birds pulled ahead 9-6 after a kill by junior Hailey Marshall. Marshall made quite the impact offensively for the T-Birds, who coasted to a 2-0 lead in the match. Marshall posted eight kills and scooped five digs on the night.
With their backs against the wall, the Lady Plainsmen finally grabbed some momentum with a strong third set to cut the deficit to 2-1. Stucky had more success on the block, while her teammates gained confidence.
“This is probably one of the highest-pressured games that we’ve had coming in, and we’ve got a very young team, and so I think we needed to do some adjusting there,” Laramie coach Becky Baker said.
It didn’t last long.
East stormed out in the fourth set to cap the win.
To make matters worse, Laramie (18-14) lost junior setter Camryn Nagy, who was hit in the face with a ball, and Crane, who was down on the gym floor following the match with what appeared to be a lower-body injury.
Without those two in the rotation, Laramie, who will be the No. 2 seed in the East next week, had a tough time getting anything going offensively, especially when trying to pass the ball to Stucky.
“East puts up a great block, and they were able to put some great pressure on (Stucky),” Baker said. “The hardest part is we struggled to put the ball up to run our offense and so that makes us a little more one-dimensional, which makes us a little easier to block. I think if we can clean that part up, then it’s going to solve that problem for us.”