CASPER – Jenny Christiansen’s Rocky Mountain volleyball club arrived at the Class 2A state tournament as the No. 4 seed from the West Region.
The Lady Grizzlies turned in their best match of the season Thursday afternoon by shocking No. 1-ranked Pine Bluffs 25-21, 17-25, 25-21, 18-25, 15-13 in the first round of the 2A state tournament at Casper Events Center.
“The emotions, they’re high right now,” Christiansen said. “It’s pretty exciting. We came in (as) underdogs and we just were able to play every single ball.”
The same couldn’t be said for the Lady Hornets (27-4), who were off their game from the opening serve, coach Lisa Gilbert said.
“They doubted themselves,” the coach said. “They focused on nothing but the negative. They had that deer-in-the-headlights (look). Mentally, we just questioned (ourselves). We didn’t play with confidence. I don’t know. I couldn’t get it to stop, no matter what I did.”
Rocky Mountain (20-13-2) made its presence felt early by taking a 1-0 lead in the match, thanks to consecutive kills from junior Trenity Hackney and Brenna Brost.
Pine Bluffs rallied to even the match, 1-1, but had trouble getting anything going offensively, much less establishing any type of momentum it could hang on to.
“They were playing safe,” Gilbert said. “They weren’t taking chances. We weren’t playing fundamental volleyball. We weren’t transitioning (and) were worried about hitting it out.
“The feel of it just wasn’t there. I was hoping that they could get out of it, and (Rocky Mountain) dug everything up. They had all the breaks and they were all over the place, and we just gave it to them.”
The Hornets found themselves in a 7-4 hole in the fifth set before climbing back in to tie it, 11-11. But again, what little offense they created was never rarely carried over into the next handful of points.
Senior Savannah Norman led Pine Bluffs with 12 kills, while classmate Hyleigh Fornstrom chipped in with 11. Both Hyleigh Fornstrom and senior Maddie Fornstrom finished with 25 digs, while Hyleigh Fornstrom and sophomore Jaden Shelit recorded 21 assists apiece. Norman and senior Sophie Howard each registered six blocks.
Pine Bluffs faces Tongue River (15-15-1) in an elimination match at 1 p.m. today, while Rocky Mountain takes on Sundance (25-7) in a semifinal at 4:30 p.m.
“We talked about this in practice all week that we just have to play every ball, and we have to fight no matter where we’re at,” Christiansen said. “I really felt like my girls were able to pull together and be able to accomplish that goal that they set this weekend.”