VBLrockriver

Rock River sophomore Lydia Moore serves the ball in the Longhorns’ quarterfinal match against Snake River at the Wyoming State High School Class 1A Volleyball Championships on Thursday at the Casper Events Center .

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

The Rock River volleyball team takes the adage: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” to heart.

Rock River is the third-smallest school in the state in regards to attendance numbers, with only Chugwater and Glendo having fewer students.

But that hasn’t stopped the Longhorns from qualifying for the Wyoming State High School Class 1A Volleyball Championships two of the past three years. Friday, Rock River swept Hanna in the consolation round to earn its first state tournament victory.

“We have fewer than 80 kids (kindergarten through 12th grade),” Rock River head coach Heather Alexander said. “In these smaller schools it’s harder to put it together. What I’ve got is a bunch of ladies that that are exceptional people and exceptional athletes and they’ve been working hard.”

Even though the Longhorns don’t have the numbers, they knew before the season they had a chance to finish the season at the Casper Events Center. They went 16-9 during the regular season and then finished second at the East Regional to prove that point.

“It’s pretty nerve-wracking to be here,” said Isabell Davis, the team’s lone senior. “But we knew from our first practice that we had something special and we’ve worked really hard to be here. We really want it and we’re really proud to be here representing our small community.”

Of course, the limited number of girls available makes practices difficult at times. Without enough players to hold a six-on-six scrimmage, the Longhorns have to get creative.

“Sometimes some of our teachers will come in and we’ll practice against them, or we’ll have some alumni come in to practice,” Davila said. “But some of them are really good, so we have a good competition with our teachers and our alumni.”

For sophomore Lydia Moore, this is her first time at the Events Center. But with so many talented teammates, she doesn’t think it will be her last.

“To finally make it here is like fulfilling a dream,” she said. “We were expecting to get here and we did. I think it’s going to start being normal for us because we have a group of girls that are always positive and very athletic.”

Alexander, who has been coaching at Rock River for 16 years, agrees.

“These young girls like this and they want to do this,” she said. “Our basketball team has been (to state) two years in a row and that helps us because we’re not quite so scared coming here.

“We’ve got a bunch of ranch girls that love each other, they love their town and they love to play.”

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN

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Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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