Big Piney punches State ticket with 3rd place Conference run

Joan Mitchell photos

LANDER – Wyoming Indian High School slammed over a kill, overtaking the Big Piney Lady Punchers and pushing the fifth set beyond 15 points during Saturday’s consolation semifinal at the 2A West Regional Tournament in Lander.

The opportunity to secure a ticket to State hung in the balance. The Punchers dug in their heels, refusing to yield after battling Wyoming Indian through four sets.

Wyoming Indian served into the net, tying the set at 16 points.

Big Piney senior Hanna Hansen covered Wyoming Indian’s next hit, bumping the ball up to senior Jocie Banks. Banks set the ball to senior Ceci Sambrano.

Sambrano slammed the ball over the net, scoring point 17 for the Punchers.

Hansen stepped behind the serving line, spun the ball into the air, and powered a perfect serve over the net and match point, 18-16.

The 3-2 victory over Wyoming Indian clinched Big Piney’s spot at the 2021 State Tournament for the first time in four years.

“Saturday morning, we played the ‘go to State or go home’ game against Wyoming Indian,” said head coach Kinsy Voss. “We’ve beat them each time we have played them this season. The first two sets were easy wins, but Wyoming Indian decided to fight for it and took set three and four from us. In set five, I got to see how mentally strong the ladies of Big Piney are – we won and we made our goal of State.”

Big Piney opened the tournament with a 3-1 victory against Shoshoni on Friday afternoon. That evening, the Lady Punchers fell in a five-set battle to Rocky Mountain, the game stretching past 10 p.m.

Putting the tough loss behind them, Big Piney followed up its triumph over Wyoming Indian with a resounding 3-0 victory against Shoshoni, securing the No. 3 seed at the 2021 State Tournament.

“The best thing about post season in sports are those tough fought games, where both teams just battle it out and leave it all on the court,” said coach Voss. “It wasn’t enough for Lady Red to go to State. They wanted to win third place, so we did.”

First round – Shoshoni

The first set turned into a heater. Shoshoni took the lead at point 7. Sambrano delivered a kill, tying the set at point 8.

Shoshoni regained the initiative until junior Brynne Hoffman aced point 10. A pair of aces fired off by senior Sierra Keiter broke the stalemate at point 12.

Hansen scored a kill and senior Hannah Runyan wound up an ace, maintaining the lead. Shoshoni edged up, but Hansen met the Wranglers at point 19 with an ace.

Shoshoni pulled ahead, only to be met with kills by Sambrano and Runyan. An ace from Hoffman tied the set at point 22. Runyan scored two more kills before Keiter spiked over set point, 25-22.

Big Piney hit the ground running in the second set, maintaining a commanding lead from the first point to set point at 25-14. Hansen scored the final point with a kill, assisted by Banks.

Big Piney repeated its performance in the third set. Shoshoni briefly tied the match at point 13. Banks set the ball and Hansen fired off a kill, pulling Big Piney back into the lead. Shoshoni served the ball into the net and Big Piney scored match point, 25-16.

Rocky Mountain

Big Piney and the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies went all-out in an epic two-hour, five-set brawl on Friday night.

Rocky Mountain struck first, winning the opening set, 25-16.

The Grizzlies pulled ahead in the second set. Big Piney rallied with a kill by senior Lena Hatch. Junior Shelby Guest scored a kill and an ace. Banks served up point 12.

Hansen and Runyan fired off a sequence of points, tying the set at point 20. Hatch tipped over point 21, placing Big Piney in the lead.

Kills by Sambrano and Keiter, assisted by Banks, led to set point, 25-23.

Rocky Mountain pulled out all the stops in the third set, taking the win, 25-13.

Undaunted, Big Piney fired back in the fourth set. Aces scored by Guest and Runyan pulled the Lady Punchers into the lead.

Keiter served up points 18, 19 and 20. Hansen fired off a kill for point 21. Rocky Mountain failed to return a serve by Banks. Sambrano hit over point 24. A kill by Keiter secured set point, 25-13.

The match came down to the fifth set. Rocky Mountain jumped ahead to take the set, 15-8, and win the match, 3-2.

Wyoming Indian

Big Piney won a heater first set. A kill by Hansen broke the tie at point 14. Big Piney remained in the lead until Wyoming Indian caught up at point 22. Keiter slammed over a kill for point 23. Hatch tipped point 24 over the net. Keiter scored set point, 25-23.

The Lady Punchers carried the momentum from the first set into the second. Keiter, Hansen, Hatch and Runyan each pulled off kills, frequently assisted by Banks with Guest providing defensive coverage. Hoffman and Runyan each served up aces.

Wyoming Indian served the ball out of bounds and Big Piney closed out the set, 25-11.

Wyoming Indian regrouped, winning the third and fourth sets 25-23 and 25-20, respectively.

The tie-breaking fifth set came down to the wire. Wyoming Indian took an early lead. Hits by Sambrano and Keiter tied the set at point 9. The Chiefs pulled ahead before Big Piney regained the lead at point 11 with a kill by Sambrano.

Runyan slammed over a kill for point 13. Hansen scored point 15 assisted by Banks. Wyoming Indian pulled ahead with point 16. Sambrano spiked over point 17 and Hansen aced match point, 18-16.

Shoshoni – third-place round

The Lady Punchers and Lady Wranglers fought point-for-point in the first set. Shoshoni opened the set ahead. A kill by Sambrano tied the match at point 8. Hoffman aced point 10.

Shoshoni crept back into the lead until Keiter unleashed a pair of aces. Hansen struck with a kill for point 15 and Runyan aced point 16.

Shoshoni regained the initiative, though Hansen briefly tied the set at point 19. Kills by Sambrano and Runyan and an ace from Hoffman put Big Piney back in the lead. Runyan fired off a pair of kills and Keiter delivered set point, 25-22.

Boosted by the win, Big Piney trounced Shoshoni in the second set, 25-14. Hoffman opened the set with an ace. Guest carried Big Piney over point 20 with an ace. Hansen scored set point with a kill assisted by Banks.

Hansen set the momentum in the third set, widening Big Piney’s lead with a sequence of kills. Hoffman aced point 10.

Shoshoni briefly tied the set at point 13. Hansen replied with a pair of kills, assisted by Banks. Banks shot over a kill to score point 18. Runyan aced point 19. Hansen spiked a kill for point 23. Shoshoni served into the net and Big Piney scored match point, 25-16.

Joan Mitchell photos