Cheyenne East topped Riverton in four games to further its state championship hopes.
CASPER – Shae Halls started it, Madison Blaney extended it and Hailey Marshall ended it.
The trio of upperclassmen helped lead Cheyenne East to a 25-18, 25-15, 19-25, 25-22 win over Riverton in the first round of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament Thursday afternoon at Casper Events Center.
Halls, who posted four kills, two ace serves, a block and nine digs, was pivotal in the opening set. She opened the match with a block to help lift the No. 3-ranked Lady Thunderbirds (29-6) to a 5-0 lead before Riverton burned its first timeout. She then added a kill and an ace to help the T-Birds go on an 8-2 run to widen their lead to 12-3.
But East head coach Nicole Quigley knows Halls can be more effective.
“She struggled a little bit on her hitting, but (she did well on) defense and other things, you know. Her teammates did a great job of stepping up and helping her out,” Quigley said.
Halls’ passing helped give East a 1-0 lead in the match.
“That was huge for us, because coming into the first game of state, everyone’s nervous, and you want to play at your highest level, and that’s not always going to happen, so just getting momentum (from her) really helped us,” Blaney said of grabbing the early momentum.
Blaney dominated the second set.
The 5-foot-10 middle hitter combined for a block and a kill on back-to-back points to push the T-Birds to a 12-9 advantage. East used a 17-6 run to run away with the set and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
“She is always a presence in the middle for us, and when she is on fire, she holds the blocks for the other hitters and does a great job leading our team in general,” Quigley said.
Blaney tied Marshall with a team-best 14 kills and added a team-high four blocks to go along with eight digs.
“(I just knew) that we had to put the ball down, and that we had that opening in the middle really worked for me,” she said. “Seeing the block, hitting around that, creating momentum again.”
Riverton didn’t go quietly into the autumn night.
The Lady Wolverines used a spurt of mini runs to eventually build a 19-13 lead before winning the third set and cutting East’s lead to 2-1.
After a seesaw start to the fourth frame, East finally took control, and Marshall’s 14th kill of the day secured the win. East is now one match away from playing for its fourth state championship in the past six seasons.
“When we went into a timeout, we talked about how much work we’ve put into this and that we deserve this,” Blaney said. “We wanted every ball. So, going into the game with that mindset, that every ball, no balls can touch on our side of the court, just wanting every single ball and pushing through.”
East takes on No. 2-ranked Thunder Basin (28-7) at 4:30 p.m. today. The T-Birds went 1-2 against the Lady Bolts during the regular season.