Corin Carruth felt the serve come off her hand wrong. She thought it was going out. And that wouldn’t have been the end.
Kelly Walsh led 24-10 in the fourth set and were at match point for the 2018 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Volleyball Championship. Following a loss in the first set filled with uncharacteristic mistakes, the Trojans returned to form and were on the cusp of winning three straight sets. And a second straight championship.
“I was just like, please go over,” Carruth said. “I wasn’t hoping for an ace or anything. I just wanted to get it in play.”
Carruth’s serve hit the top of the net and Laramie was unable to return it. Ace. End of match.
That point from the junior sealed what transformed from upset to forgone conclusion. Kelly Walsh beat Laramie 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-10) on Saturday afternoon to win a second consecutive state championship.
“I think we were just a little nervous,” junior Danilynn Schell said. “We knew them, we played them twice earlier in the season. And then after that set we were like, OK, we can do this and we did.”
Kelly Walsh’s nerves were evident immediately. Kills went into the net, attempted digs went sailing sideways. This was uncharacteristic for a team that entered the championship match on a 24-match winning streak.
Laramie went up 16-13 and continued to hold the momentum until late in the match when the Trojans started to rally. Kelly Walsh scored four consecutive points but the Plainsmen were already at set point. All they needed was another to take the first set.
“We made a lot more errors than usual due to our nerves,” Carruth said. “We just had to calm ourselves down and then we got a hold of it.”
Kelly Walsh’s offense built off the small run it started late in the first set and carried it over to the second. They possessed an early lead but Laramie stuck around.
The Plainsmen’s best hitters, seniors Jennifer Aadland and Ashlyn Titensor, continued to target Kelly Walsh senior Saaj Hull. Hull dug what she could but the fire power and constant pressure led to an inconsistent stream of points.
“Saaj and I always talk to each other,” Carruth said. “We were able to figure something out.”
And the momentum never shifted once the Trojans solved Laramie’s hitters. When Laramie would start to string together consecutive points either Schell or Corruth or senior Brooke Abbott or senior Hadley Lloyd would end the run with a kill or block of their own.
With that, the Trojans found their rhythm. Carruth put set point down in the second to even the sets and the Trojans cruised in the final two.
“When you’re ahead it gets easier to focus,” Schell said. “And you’re concentrated and you’re calm.”
Seeing the state championship within reach, the Trojans made quick work of the fourth set to capture a second straight. It’s the program’s eighth and only the second time winning back-to-back (2001-02).
“This is so amazing,” Carruth said. “I can’t even describe it.”