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Volleyball Practice

Kylie Hilderbrand grabs a ball during Natrona County's volleyball practice on Aug. 22 at Jerry Dalton Gym in Casper.

Natrona County took its lumps in the Fillies’ first full weekend of Class 4A East Conference action. Friday night brought a prompt sweep by the Gillette Camels, although two of those sets remained close throughout. The Fillies managed to win the opening set on Saturday but were soon overwhelmed by Thunder Basin.

The Fillies won the first volleyball set played inside the new Jerry Dalton Gym but ultimately dropped Saturday’s contest to Thunder Basin 3-1 (15-25, 25-14, 25-16, 25-15).

Initially, the Fillies took advantage of errors. Junior Kate Robertson tallied three of her five blocks in the opening set.

“We came out strong,” Natrona County head coach Michael Botkin said. “I think right now it’s just lack of stamina, lack of mental focus.”

The Bolts came out firing in the second set, powered by the stout line of Madison Miller, Jersie Taylor and Rigan McInerney. McInerney, who transferred from Sundance over the summer, dominated the second set at the net as the Bolts improved on their accuracy.

Taylor put the second set away with an emphatic kill, one of her six.

“We had a ton of errors in that first set,” Thunder Basin head coach Wennett Martin said. “And, I don’t know, we kind of came out flat, as coaches say. It’s almost like we didn’t have it in the bag. ... But then the kids responded and that was nice.”

Thunder Basin pulled away with similar play in sets three and four, although the Fillies did test the Bolts in the fourth set before fading.

Natrona County senior Grace DuBay led the Fillies with a game-high seven kills while teammate Parker Mooren added five.

With the first full weekend of conference play in the books the Fillies are 8-9 overall, 1-2 in the East. A five-set victory over Sheridan the day after losing to Kelly Walsh has been followed by contested games against both schools from Gillette.

And the schedule doesn’t get easier for the Fillies, who travel to Cheyenne East and Central next weekend.

“We need more mental focus,” Botkin said. “Not just compounding mistake after mistake after mistake. We can’t make four or five mistakes in a row or we can’t have two good things in a row and not be able to put the ball down. There was a lot of that today.”

That’s where the Fillies look to improve. They hope to have their full game rounded out by regionals because there is no more automatic bid in the regular season.

Having seen all the teams in the Northeast quadrant so far, Martin believes all four qualifiers from the East Conference could come from there.

“It’s possible, we could send all four teams from the north,” she said. “I think Campbell County, that’s a legit team. Natrona, that’s a good team. Sheridan, every time we see them play they are just that much better.

“So it’s one of those things where the north might be the tougher of the two.”

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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