RIVERTON – Fighting their way back from a series of losses at the Riverton Tournament on Aug. 26-27, the Big Piney High School Puncher volleyball team rallied to score a decisive win against 2A Conference rival Wind River in the final game.
The action-packed weekend featured five games against schools representing each division, from 1A Saratoga to 4A Sheridan. Teams played for the best of three sets and played the first two sets to 21 points.
Opening day pitted Big Piney against 3A Lander and 1A Saratoga, with the Punchers defeated, 2-0, in both games. On the second day, 3A Powell scored a 2-0 win against Big Piney, followed by a 2-0 victory for 4A Sheridan.
Despite the final scores, Big Piney demonstrated grit in each game, nearly overtaking its opponents in several sets. The Lady Punchers carried that determination and endurance into the fifth game, beating Wind River, 2-0, following two tightly contested sets.
The team showed improvement over the weekend against a variety of opponents, said Head Coach Kinsy Voss.
“We did well this weekend,” she said. “It took us a bit too long to find our confidence in each game. We have some new athletes playing varsity level, so we played a bit more reserved than we’d like. I saw some great things and also took notes of what we need to strengthen. We ended up taking only on win against Wind River, but played along with the other schools we met.”
In the first set against Lander on Friday, Big Piney took an early lead, buoyed by an ace served by senior Hannah Runyan. Lander moved rapidly to close the gap and overtake Big Piney, maintaining its lead and finishing the set ahead, 21-11.
Lander refused to yield in the second set, taking the lead and holding onto it for another 21-11 win.
The Lady Punchers squared off against the Saratoga Panthers in the second game. Saratoga powered through the first set, winning, 21-9.
Undeterred, Big Piney gave the Panthers a run for their money in the second set. An ace delivered by senior Shelby Guest tied the match at point 6. Senior Brittany Tatum slammed over two hits.
Saratoga hit the ball out returning a serve from senior Brynne Hoffman. Runyan pulled the Punchers ahead with a block. Tatum scored a pair of aces, widening Big Piney’s lead to four points.
Saratoga managed to close the gap, tying the set at 19 points and overtaking Big Piney by a single point. Runyan matched Saratoga in points with a hit before the Panthers scored the final point for a 21-20 victory.
Big Piney played Powell point for point in the first set of the opening game on Saturday.
Hits by freshman Kodee Greene tied the set at points 5 and 6, respectively. Hoffman slammed over a kill to match Powell in scoring at point 7.
Sophomore Micah Strong served up a pair of points. A kill by Tatum and block from Runyan kept the Lady Punchers ahead.
Powell closed the gap at 13 points. Big Piney snatched the lead again with Runyan serving several points. Powell managed to retake the initiative and pull out the win, 21-19. Powell maintained its intensity into the second set, netting a 21-3 victory.
Later on Saturday morning, 4A Sheridan overpowered Big Piney, winning the first set, 21-16, followed by a 21-8 victory in the second set.
Refusing to throw in the towel, Big Piney rallied from the loss against Sheridan to battle 1A Conference rival, Wind River, to victory in a pair of nail-biter sets.
Wind River went on an 8-point run in the first set before getting tangled in the net. Big Piney began to close the gap with an ace served up by Tatum and a kill by Strong. Runyan scored two points serving and Strong delivered another kill with senior Sharianne Brower setting the ball.
Guest and Hoffman scored points while serving. Greene tapped over a point.
Wind River remained ahead until Runyan slammed over a hit. Tatum aced her serve. Runyan blocked Wind River’s attempt to score and then served a pair of aces.
Big Piney pulled out the win, 21-20.
In the second set, Big Piney set the pace, remaining in the lead until Wind River tied the match at 19 points. Runyan, Strong and Tatum each slammed over powerful hits, assisted several times by sets from Brower.
Wind River briefly pulled ahead at point 20 before hitting a serve out of bounds. Greene tapped over the game-winning point, with Big Piney defeating Wind River, 21-20.
The Lady Punchers host their first home game against Farson on Thursday, Sept. 1. Varsity takes the court first at 4 p.m., followed by junior varsity at 5 p.m.
“We’ve got a great week of practice planned and Thursday will be our first home game,” said Coach Voss.