Lady Cyclone state title bid comes up short
Southeast falls 3-2 to Riverside in 1A championship game
CASPER – The Southeast High School volleyball team had a shot at making history on Saturday evening at the Ford Wyoming Center.
The Lady Cyclones came into the Class 1A state championship match looking to win their first ever state volleyball title.
However, the same could be said for their opponents – the Riverside Lady Rebels.
It was a battle of two teams who had never won a state volleyball championship and two teams who were undefeated against Class 1A competition in 2022, and it went down to the final points.
In the end, Southeast fell to Riverside, 3-2 (23-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-16, 16-14).
“The words cannot explain how proud I am of them and how hard they worked,” coach Roxanne Jolovich said. “They gave it their all. They did a great job.”
In the championship, Southeast won the first two sets before the Lady Rebels made some adjustments, allowing them to win the final three sets to pull off the victory in the state title game.
In the opening set, Southeast fell behind 12-6 following an ace from Riverside. The ensuing serve from the Lady Rebels fell into the net, sparking a Southeast rally.
The Lady Cyclones used a 9-2 run to take a 15-14 lead. Senior Shelby Ekwall used one of her 11 kills to tie the set at 14, and senior Brenna Herring tallied one of her blocks to give her team the lead.
Southeast’s lead reached as many as four late in the set.
In the second set, the Lady Cyclones jumped out to a 9-3 lead behind multiple kills from Ekwall and numerous errors by Riverside.
Southeast never trailed in the set, and it was capped off by kills from Ekwall and senior Sydney Anderson.
That’s when the momentum of the match shifted in favor of the top seed from the West regional.
“Riverside started playing some different angles on the ball, and it took us a little bit to adjust to it,” Jolovich said.
Leading by two sets, a Herring block tied the third set at one apiece, but Riverside countered with an 8-1 run.
The Lady Rebel’s lead reached as many as 11-3, but Southeast chipped away at the deficit, cutting the Riverside lead to as few as 24-22 before the Lady Rebels capped off the set.
In the fourth set, Riverside jumped out to a 3-0 lead, extending it to as many as 10 late in the set, ultimately forcing a fifth and deciding set.
The fifth set was back-and-forth with multiple lead changes and multiple ties.
Down 10-9, Anderson tied the set at 10 with one of her team-high 18 kills. The very next point, she put Southeast back in front 11-10.
It was part of a 5-0 run giving Southeast a 14-10 lead – one point shy of winning a state title.
However, the 15th point never found the floor of the Ford Wyoming Center.
Riverside scored the next two points, and Southeast called a timeout. Coming out of the break, the Lady Rebels added four more points in a row to secure the victory.
“That’s hard, but I can say, every single girl on the court and every single girl that came in gave it all,” Jolovich said. “They did everything they could, and they worked extremely hard regardless of how the ball fell.”
To get to the championship match, the Lady Cyclones defeated Saratoga on Thursday evening and Cokeville on Friday evening.
In Thursday’s opening round against the Saratoga Lady Panthers, Southeast had to overcome a 1-0 set deficit to defeat Saratoga 3-1 (19-25, 25-17, 25-12, 25-14).
The No. 4-seeded Lady Panthers scored the first three points of the set before Herring put the Lady Cyclones on the scoreboard.
Ekwall’s kill tied the set at six, and Anderson followed it up with a kill of her own to put Southeast in front 7-6.
However, the lead proved to be short-lived. An attack error handed Saratoga the lead back for good at 15-14.
In the second set, the Lady Panthers once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but a kill and an ace by Anderson tied the set at two.
An assisted block by Ekwall and Herring gave the Lady Cyclones a 4-3 advantage. It was a lead which Southeast never surrendered for the remainder of the set.
The third set was like the first two. Saratoga grabbed an early 2-0 lead, but much like the second set, it was short-lived.
Junior Kylee Llewellyn’s ace gave the Lady Cyclones a 3-2 lead, and Saratoga never saw the lead again as Southeast limited Saratoga to only 10 more points for the remainder of the set.
In the fourth set, Southeast raced out to a 9-0 lead, cruising to the 11-point set win.
Ekwall led the team with 14 kills, while Herring had 12 and Anderson nine. Herring also tallied four solo blocks, while Ekwall had three. Junior Baylie Booth dished out 31 assists, while Herring had 12.
The win propelled the Lady Cyclones to the semifinal round against the Cokeville Lady Panthers, the No. 2 seed from the West regional.
Southeast swept the Lady Panthers 25-16, 25-20, 25-20.
The Lady Cyclones trailed for half of the opening set.
Cokeville led 13-11 before a Carson kill sparked a rally. Southeast went on to score 15 of the next 18 points to win the first set.
In the second set, the Lady Panthers held a brief 2-1 lead, but multiple mistakes by Cokeville gave Southeast the lead back. The Lady Cyclones never trailed for the remainder of the set.
In the third set, Southeast jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Cokeville battled back taking a 10-7 lead, forcing the Lady Cyclones to use a timeout.
Southeast scored the next four points, and it was the first of three lead changes over the remainder of the set.
Anderson tied the set at 19 with a kill, and she also put Southeast in front for good on the ensuing point with another kill.
Anderson led the Lady Cyclones with 13 kills, while Ekwall added 10.
As a team, Southeast tallied 12 blocks, including a team-high four from sophomore Brooklyn Leithead. Herring had three, while Llewellyn and Ekwall had two each. Herring also had 20 assists.
The win moved Southeast to the championship match where the Lady Cyclones ultimately came up short to end the weekend.
Southeast ends the season with a 27-6 record.
It also marks the end of the careers for four seniors – Carson, Herring, Anderson and Ekwall.
“Those four seniors are amazing,” Jolovich said. “Their attitude. Their presence. Their personalities. They are great volleyball players, but they are great human beings. They are great people. For my own daughter to look up to all four of them, that’s priceless.”