Arguably, Riverton was one of the more frustrating volleyball teams in the state last year. The Wolverines had promise and a standout recruited by the University of Wyoming, but still finished just 19-15 and missed the state tournament. In fact, they lost to Green River in the first round of regionals and then to Cody in a winner-goes-to-state consolation situation.
The Wolverines have the urgency this year.
Following a beneficial Casper Invitational over the weekend, the Wolverines stand at 20-5 this season. As conference play looms, the team has set out to prove this season isn’t like the last.
Admittedly, Riverton took its lumps over the weekend, but it’s those sorts of games that head coach Trista Day hopes her squad learns from.
“The games that we’ve played, we haven’t had tough competition,” Day said. “We did go to Star Valley and they beat us in three (sets) and they’re a tough team. We didn’t play well at all. I’m hoping we decide that we have to play well and compete.
“That’s what I’m hoping and anticipating is that we go in and start competing with these bigger, tougher teams instead of being that team that handles a game against easier opponents.”
Riverton started on a hot streak, although those games came against opponents like Wind River, Thermopolis, Worland and Kemmerer, as well as couple Utah schools.
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The Casper Invitational brought hiccups but also shining moments. The Wolverines beat Mountain View and Cheyenne Central only to fall to West foe Rock Springs twice. Those results can help Riverton in the long run but aren’t indicative of the team itself in early October because of the small final steps the team has yet to make.
“It’s just figuring how we mesh as a team and the small things, the fundamentals,” Day said. “I think sometimes we forget about those because we do have some big guns, we forget the other part of the game is important too.”
Riverton’s biggest gun is senior Naya Shime, who committed to playing college volleyball at Wyoming last year. She’s a clubbing outside hitter who has caused match-up issues for several teams across the state. Her abilities alone couldn’t help Riverton conquer the regional climb and make the state tournament. But this year she’s surrounded by role players ready when they’re called upon.
Day credited Riverton’s middle blockers with giving the team strength in its spine. Seniors Alexxis Motisi and Delaney Young have already made strides this year, as well as sophomore Mariah Hils. Senior Mackenzie Becker has impressed with her growth and maturity on the outside this season. Senior setter Hannah Reinig not only handles her business on offense but she acts as the team’s spark plug. Defensively, the Wolverines are powered by trusty senior libero Taci Wilson.
“They know that we need them and that we can’t win with just Naya,” Day said. “We’re great that way. We need everybody. Everyone is needed to step up and do their part and so far we’re doing a great job of that.”
Quadrant play is where last year’s season sort of came unhinged. And that’s where the Wolverines find themselves this year. More prepared to battle, the Wolverines (who already won a one-off with Cody to stand at 1-0 in quadrant play) start the bulk of their league play this weekend. First it’s on the road at Rock Springs on Friday before hosing Kelly Walsh on Saturday. That’s an intimidating way to begin — the same side that’s already defeated them twice in a weekend, then the dominant defending state champions.
Last year’s Wolverines folded in crucial situations like that. This year’s incarnation sees those moments as turning points to the season. And these Wolverines, led by its seniors, know this year is now or never.