BIG PINEY – Fighting through five sets to pull out a win against Wind River High School on Friday, Sept. 18, the Lady Punchers proved they are a team to be reckoned with this season.
The Puncher Gym pulsed with Homecoming energy as the Big Piney athletes demonstrated their endurance and grit down to the last point.
“We gave the crowd a good show out there,” said head coach Kinsy Voss. “We were actually down two starters on varsity, so I had to do some rearranging. It was kind of chaotic during the week figuring out what we were going to do. Once they got comfortable with it and confident with it, they were pretty untouchable.”
Wind River won the first set by two points. Big Piney recovered to take the second set.
Wind River replied with a victory in the third set. The Punchers fired back and handily won the fourth set with double the points scored by Wind River.
Both teams squared off for the winner-takes-all tie-breaking fifth set. Big Piney took an early lead. Wind River crept up, tying the set at 12 points. Determined to make the hard work in the four previous sets count, the Punchers dug deep and scored the crucial points to win the set and match, 3-2.
“Volleyball is a game of errors,” said Voss. “Whoever makes the least amount of errors wins. It’s always a fresh start with a new game, and the girls really took that into consideration: ‘Okay, we lost that last game. It’s in the past. Here’s a fresh start. Let’s make less errors.’ They really have grabbed onto that model and I appreciate them for that so much.”
Wind River took the initiative early in the first set. An ace by junior Brynne Hoffman and three blocks by junior Hannah Runyan edged Big Piney into the lead.
Wind River tied the match again at 11 points. Senior Sierra Keiter responded with a kill, followed by a point tapped over by Banks. Once again, Wind River slid up on the scoreboard to match the Punchers at point 16.
Senior Hanna Hansen delivered a kill, moving Big Piney into the lead. Runyan, assisted by senior Jocie Banks, hit over point 20. Stepping up to serve, senior Ceci Sambrano delivered an ace for point 21.
Wind River took the lead until Banks tied the set at 24 points with an ace. Wind River managed to pull out two final points and the win, 26-24.
Undaunted, Big Piney turned the tables in the next set. Hansen set the pace with a pair of aces. Banks blocked for point 5. Sambrano aced point 8. Runyan, Hansen, Keiter kept the momentum going offensively as libero and senior Zoe Long defended the court with digs.
Banks launched two aces, taking the Punchers to 19 points. Keiter served up an ace for point 23. Wind River moved up before getting tangled in the net, leading to game point for the Punchers at 25-17.
Wind River overpowered Big Piney in the third set. Kills by Keiter and senior Shelby Hatch and aces served by Runyan and Sambrano were not enough to close the gap.
Wind River finished the third set ahead, 25-18.
The battle was far from over. Big Piney dug in its heels in the fourth set, unleashing a lethal offensive and holding the line defensively.
Hansen and Hoffman opened the set each serving over an ace. Runyan, Keiter, Hansen and Hatch fired off one kill after another, frequently assisted by Banks.
Sambrano aced point 21. Keiter slammed over a kill off a set from Banks. Sambrano served up another ace for game point at 25-12.
All bets were off as the opponents hit the court in the tie-breaking set. Big Piney pulled into the lead right away with two aces shot over by Hansen and four kills delivered by Sambrano.
Wind River crept up from behind to tie the set at 12 points. Hansen slammed over a kill for point 13. Banks sent an ace flying over the net for point 14.
Deep in the backcourt, Long bumped the ball up to Banks. Banks set the ball for Hansen to power up a final kill and game point, 15-13.