Despite dropping the first two sets Saturday against Southwest Conference rival Encampment, the Cokeville Panthers didn’t panic.
After all, they had been in this situation before.
Three times during the season Cokeville had trailed 2-0 before rallying to win the match.
“We’ve been down two sets before this year and still won,” Cokeville senior Janetta Teichert said, “so I had no doubt we were going to come back and win.”
Encampment won the first two sets on kills by junior Paige Powell, who was a force at the net all match.
The Panthers began their comeback with a methodical victory in the third set and then won seven of the final nine points in the fourth set to tie the match.
“We’ve been down many times this year and ended up winning the match,” Cokeville head coach Bill Thompson said. “This team just has a never-say-die attitude. I’m so proud of the way they battled back.”
Cokeville kept threatening to pull away in the decisive fifth set, but Encampment refused to let that happen. An 8-4 Panthers lead was soon 8-all. A 12-10 advantage became a 13-12 deficit thanks to another kill by the 6-foot Powell.
The Tigers had match point at 14-13 after Powell pounded the ball off a Cokeville player, but the Panthers tied it on a block.
They finally got the win, and their state-best 22nd state championship, after a Teichert kill and a lift on an Encampment player.
Teichert, who was a freshman on Cokeville’s last state championship team in 2014, said this title will always have a special meaning for her and her senior teammates — Kaycee Linford, Alley McKinnon, Lexia Brown, Kassidy King Katelyn Petersen.
“It was great to win a title as a freshman,” Teichert said, “but to be on the court with my teammates and friends ... that’s been a dream for us because we’ve had to overcome so many challenges.”
Like playing a team for a fourth time, as was the case in Encampment. Still, the Panthers managed to finish the season unbeaten against the 2015 state champs.
“Encampment is a great team and a fun team to play,” Teichert said. “I just have such a feeling of gratitude for all the help we’ve had this year from our coaches and our fans and our community.”
The championship is not only No. 22 for Cokeville but the seventh in a row for the Southwest Conference with Cokeville (2011-14), Encampment (2015) and Snake River (2016) winning it all prior to the Panthers’ latest triumph.