Time stood still for just a moment as Kelly Walsh senior Hallie Jimenez turned to her best friend Madison Vinich and leaped. Jimenez wrapped her legs around Vinich and buried her face into her fellow senior’s neck. Vinich held up one finger toward the Casper Events Center rafters.
The dream they thought of in the summer had finally come true.
Faced with a seemingly endless stream of match points, the Trojans were finally able to score consecutive points to beat Cheyenne East 3-1 (25-16, 20-25, 25-21, 32-30) on Saturday night to win the elusive Wyoming State High School Class 4A Volleyball Championship. At long last, the wait was over.
All the sweeter, the Trojans did it by slaying the three-time defending state champions. East defeated Kelly Walsh for two of those titles, one last year and one during Vinich’s freshman year.
“I can’t express how good I feel right now,” Vinich said. “Being in the state championship two times before and not winning is devastating, but this is the best feeling ever right now.”
Kelly Walsh last won the state title in 2010. Since then the Trojans have lived with heartache and close calls. Saturday’s title was a long time coming and the Trojans had to wait through a long fourth set to earn it.
An ace from sophomore Danilynn Schell gave Kelly Walsh a 20-16 lead in that set, only for East to rally and tie. Senior Jill Phipps made a vicious block at the net, which made Jimenez bounce with anticipation in the back row, only for East to answer.
Finally, on a block from Schell, the Trojans scored the clinching point.
Vinich is a three-time all-state selection in volleyball before the voting has been released for her senior season. In all likelihood, she’ll finish her volleyball career at Kelly Walsh as a four-time all-stater. But after the match her teeth chattered trying to compose herself when talking about her teammates.
“Our team is one of a kind,” Vinich said. “There’s nobody on our team that can’t put a ball away or can’t set.”
The depth of the senior class, coupled with junior Hadley Lloyd and standout sophomores Schell and Corin Carruth, were too much for opponents.
“We had so much motivation to win because of us seniors, we’re so driven to win it,” Phipps said before the tears spilled yet again.
Before the match, the Trojans sat in a complete circle on the mat and stretched. All were wearing their long-sleeve warm-ups, white shirts with the school phrase: “Trojan perfect” on them.
Their season wasn’t flawless and Saturday’s championship was far from exemplary, but there are few words other than perfect that could match how the Trojans felt holding up the state championship trophy.
“Playing with these guys since sixth grade is really amazing,” Vinich said. “Winning a state championship with them is even better.”