For a team that went undefeated in conference play, Laramie still plays like an underdog.
The Plainsmen opened the first day of the season with a 2-1 loss to Class 3A Rawlins. The next day, they mounted a comeback to top Kelly Walsh 2-1.
Laramie did not look like the most dominant team in a conference that has produced five of the last six state champions that weekend. But over the course of the season the Plainsmen grew into the team that coaches believed three years ago they could be.
They struggled with Evanston in Thursday’s quarterfinals but scored the decisive points when they needed to.
“Volleyball is such a momentum swing and different kids are on at different days,” head coach Rebecca Baker said. “As soon as we figured out that Maia (Edwards) was having that day then we figured we had to give her the ball.”
The senior was commanding against the Red Devils and came up with timely blocks and kills.
Edwards, along with Caely Pickerd, Shyann Bastian and Lexi Pulley, were beacons for the Plainsmen all season as they won 11 straight games before falling to Cheyenne East 3-1 (25-22, 25-19, 16-25, 27-25) in Friday night’s semifinal.
“It’s a big sigh of relief that the first one’s done,” Baker said. “They’ve been building up to this, we’ve been worried about it, but now that it’s done we can get into a rhythm.”
Laramie was just one win away, but now will have to wait at least another year for its first state volleyball championship since 1994.
For the volleyball team at Thunder Basin, this was not like most inaugural seasons.
The Bolts started 0-2 and later lost four of five matches, but they hit a stride at the end of the season. They closed with four straight victories before losing to Laramie in the East Regional championship.
Armed with a few familiar faces from Gillette’s semifinal team last year (Macradee Miller, Jayce Kelley and Janae Larson), head coach Wennet Martin took the formula she used to win three straight state championships in Wright and applied it to the newest program in Class 4A.
Clearly, it produced results.
Not only did the Bolts make the state tournament, they advanced as the No. 2 seed in the East, ahead of three-time defending champion Cheyenne East, and topped Green River to appear in the semifinals.
The Bolts are a legitimate threat and it happened quicker than anyone expected.