Puncher volleyball runs gauntlet to start season

Robert Galbreath photo

RIVERTON – The Puncher volleyball team squared off against top teams in the 3A and 4A divisions at the first tournament of the season hosted by Riverton. The two-day event, Aug. 27-28, featured teams from all four classifications.

Although the Punchers did not pull out a win, the varsity squad played with energy and determination, staying competitive against much larger programs.

The Punchers’ drive over the weekend proved the team is ready to hit the ground running this season, more than capable of taking on 2A rivals when conference play begins.

“Tournaments are always a great way to start the season,” said head coach Kinsy Voss. “They help show us coaches what we need to improve on and how we stack up against other teams. We played 3A and 4A teams and could play at their level. When you have different levels competing against each other, you’ll either get a game at the upper level or at the lower level and we played up this weekend.”

Organizers in Riverton kept the tournament running at a quick pace with two varsity games going at the same time in the same gym. Teams played two sets to 21 points, with a third 15-point tiebreaker.

The Punchers challenged 3A Powell in the first round on Friday. Powell won the first two sets.

Big Piney kept the pressure on its opponent, tying the match and holding the lead through most of the first set. Powell took the initiative after point 15 for the win, 21-19.

Despite a strong start, the Punchers fell behind in the second set that ended in Powell’s favor, 21-16.

The Punchers pulled off nine digs, two aces, five kills and five assists against Powell.

Big Piney found itself right back in action against Worland, the 2020 3A state runner-up. Worland scored the win, 2-0, taking the first set, 21-6, and the second, 21-13. Puncher stats included 13 digs, one ace, eight kills and seven assists.

The tournament went into bracket play following the opening rounds. The Punchers faced off against 4A Cody in the first bracket on Friday night. Cody proved a particularly difficult opponent, firing off a volley of powerful shots to win both sets, 21-6 and 21-7.

The Punchers tallied six digs, five kills, five assists and two blocks.

Big Piney took on 3A Kemmerer next. The Punchers put up a fight early in both sets before the Lady Rangers pulled out a 2-0 win, 21-14 and 21-7.

Big Piney pulled out 23 digs, two aces, five kills and four assists.

The final match pitted Big Piney against Worland in the consolation round. The Punchers showed up ready to draw blood against the Warriors. Worland ultimately won the game, 2-1, but the Punchers made their opponent fight for every point.

The Punchers pulled out all the stops and scored a win in a closely contested first set, 21-20. Worland rallied and won the second set, though only by two points, 21-19. In the tiebreaking third set, Worland edged ahead for the win, 15-9.

The Punchers finished the game with a nice stat sheet with 32 digs, two aces, 14 kills and 14 assists. Defense stepped up and made five blocks.

The Punchers are headed into a busy weekend. On Friday, Sept. 3, Big Piney plays an away game against St. Stephen’s at 11 a.m. Saturday features the second tournament of the season hosted by Wyoming Indian High School.