State Volleyball, Thursday

Wright’s Briannah Quick spikes the ball over the net against Wind River Cougars during their quarterfinal match Thursday at the Wyoming State High School Class 2A Volleyball Championships at the Casper Events Center.

Josh Galemore PHOTOS, Star-Tribune

The semifinals of the Wyoming State High School Class 2A Volleyball Championships are set, with two teams expected to be there joined by two upstarts.

Three-time defending state champion Wright advanced with a tough 3-1 victory over Wind River on Thursday at the Casper Events Center, as did East Regional winner Sundance, which swept Lovell. The Panthers defeated the Bulldogs in the state championship game last year.

“We approach every game with the mindset that we can’t safety up,” Sundance senior Teila McInerney said. “We just have to go 100 percent every play. ... It’s just been so awesome to play with these girls, and we want to keep it going.”

If Wright and Sundance want to face off for a fifth time this season — Sundance holds a 3-1 edge — they’ll first have to get past Greybull and Big Piney, respectively, in the semifinals.

Greybull moved into the semis for the first time since winning it all back in 1998 with a 3-1 victory over Big Horn while Big Piney swept Lusk to win a quarterfinal match for the first time since ... ?

“Well, we won state back in 1977 so it might be since then,” Big Piney senior Grace Tanner said.

Last year the Punchers finished fourth after making their first appearance at state in 15 years.

“We’ve been climbing the ladder,” Big Piney head coach Kim Tanner, Grace’s aunt, said. “Last year we got fourth at regionals and fourth at state and this year we won regionals so we’ll see what happens.”

The Punchers led Lusk 24-20 but the Tigers had battled back to within 24-22 and refused to go quietly into the night as the teams traded digs and blocks at the net. Finally, Grace Tanner saw an opening in the Lusk defense and placed the ball in the back corner to end the Punchers’ semifinal drought.

“It was jungle ball out there until the final point,” she said. “We knew that’s where we wanted to go and at that point I just had to try something.”

Now Big Piney, along with Greybull, will try to do something they haven’t done in decades — play for a championship.

Sundance will be waiting, as will Wright and first-year head coach Sarah Seamands.

“This year has been a roller-coaster,” Seamands said. “I think there was a learning curve for me and for the girls, but I think we’re bringing it together at the right time.”

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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