Even when staring across the net at two NCAA Division I athletes, the South volleyball team never flinched. A collective group of excited high school standouts, they instinctively hit the court to spoil the North’s attempts at overpowering its opponent.
A vicious swing from Grace Dubay (Natrona County) saw two South players hit the hard court of Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym, including Ailee Bugas (Mountain View), who got under it. Two hits later the South mobbed Liv Muir (Star Valley) and let out a celebratory scream.
In a Saturday afternoon showcasing Wyoming’s best graduating volleyball players, the scrappy South team scored a 3-2 (25-20, 25-12, 14-25, 29-27, 12-15) victory in the 2019 Wyoming Coaches Foundation All-Star Volleyball Game to finalize the high school careers of all those involved.
“I think we were stacked, I really do,” Muir said. “Ever since Wednesday we’ve just clicked. It was awesome.”
The future Casper College Thunderbird scored just four kills but each one came at a pivotal time. Swings from her and Haedyn Rhoades (Douglas) helped the South gain the initial advantage before a modest 5-0 run allowed the North to regain some composure. The North got back to within four points before Muir put down the set-winning kill to finish the opener.
The following set followed the same pattern, except without the short-lived North comeback. Overzealous swings from Paige Powell (Cody) and Lauren Steveson (Newcastle) sailed out and services into the net stopped any semblance of a run the North wanted to make. Muir and Ajahonna Archuleta (Evanston) were more than happy to take advantage on the other side of the net. The South easily cruised to a 25-12 set win, cemented by a drop shot from Kaylie Critchfield (Evanston).
That woke up the North. Booming swings sparked a dominant 15-3 run to close out the third and pull one set back. Eli Olsen (Buffalo) clinched the 25-14 set victory by ensuring a desperation dig from the South bucked its Saturday trend and didn’t clear the net.
“Those first two sets, I don’t know if it was nerves or lack of chemistry or what,” Powell said. “But we got it going again and tried to prove that we could go with those guys.”
With both teams primed, they put on a thrilling fourth set that validated the price of admission. That set was tied 11 times with neither team holding more than a four-point advantage. The North fought back with furious swings from its powerful hitters and the South scurried to the floor to dig those spikes up. Back and forth it went into extra points before a drop shot from Rhoades secured the set at 29-27. That also meant the South won the match, regardless of how the fifth set went.
“We all just had so much talent and we threw people where they’ve never played before,” Rhoades said. “We had girls play middle when they’ve never played middle in their life and they rocked it. It was just great to see all of us come together.”
Free to swing away, Dubay saved her best set for the fifth. After being well-scouted for most of the afternoon, the future Utah State Aggie notched five of her 11 kills to help the North salvage a 15-12 win in the final set. Powell finalized the game with her 20th kill.