Kelly Walsh, which has swept every match it has played since late September, was up 12-3 in the first set against Natrona County. The Fillies had played five sets on Friday and had just won in five sets earlier Saturday afternoon to earn a spot in the Class 4A West Regional Championship.
Yet, the Fillies started to rally. Sophomore Parker Mooren’s kill on an emotional rally put NC within six at 14-8. They kept hanging around and then a big block by senior Kristy Dick closed the gap to 20-19. A kill by Bre Kelly gave Natrona County a 21-20 lead.
For two days they scrapped for a spot in the state tournament. Now, they were trying to be the best.
“I think we got up a little bit and they started serving us in places we usually don’t have teams serve us,” KW head coach Jeff Barkell said. “They hit us short a little bit, they caught us off guard and we didn’t adjust real quick to it.”
Kelly Walsh rallied from there to win the first set and cruised in the final two to sweep rival Natrona County 3-0 (27-25, 25-19, 25-20).
The win, fittingly enough, was powered by the Trojans’ senior class. Madison Vinich led with a game-high 15 kills, libero Hallie Jimenez made key digs and Jill Phipps led a potent group at the net.
Phipps, senior Maddison Dedic and junior Hadley Lloyd had 12 blocks. Half of those came from Phipps, who finished with just as many kills.
“If we didn’t have something we felt like we could kill we would put it in play and then Jill Phipps would get a block or Maddi Dedic would get a block,” Barkell said. “That kind of thing is important, too. They really start to play together as a team like if we don’t get a kill out of it, it’s OK because we can play defense.”
It’s the fourth straight regional championship for the Trojans and its senior class. In addition to running the table in the conference season, the same group had another regional title on their list of goals.
Now, the Trojans are 13-0 against conference opponents in 2017 and needed just 39 sets to do it.
“This group of seniors has really fought and been in a lot of battles,” Barkell said. “They had some goals and they’ve been checking them off, trying to achieve them.”
The win gives Kelly Walsh the No. 1 West seed in the state tournament. The Trojans will play Gillette in the first round of the state tournament on Thursday.
Natrona County, which needed to win two matches on Friday just to make the state tournament, will be the No. 2 seed for the West. The Fillies face three-time defending state champion Cheyenne East in the first round.
The Fillies weren’t overwhelming against the Trojans but picked their spots. Dick started slow but finished with 12 kills. Grace DuBay added six while Parker Mooren had five.
Both teams now disperse to later converge on the Casper Events Center with the ultimate goal of a state championship just three wins away.