CASPER – Coming into the final day of the Class 1A State Volleyball Tournament at the Casper Events Center, the Lingle-Fort Laramie Lady Doggers had an opportunity at redemption.
After falling in the opening round, the Lady Doggers rattled off three straight wins to bring home a third-place trophy back to Lingle.
“They said it (Saturday) morning,” L-FL coach Barb Clark said. “We wanted to go back and play the teams we’ve lost to.”
They had the opportunity to close out the season, looking for revenge against Kaycee and Saratoga.
In the consolation semifinal against Kaycee Lady Bucs, it was a rematch of the Class 1A East Regional title game just a week prior.
“Kaycee, this morning, we said, we’ll give them that win (in the East Regional championship), but we’ll get this one.”
That is exactly what they did.
The teams split the first four sets 18-25, 25-20, 18-25, 25-19, forcing the fifth and deciding set to determine who would advance to the third-place match.
In the final set, the Lady Doggers raced out to a 9-2 lead and cruised to a 15-6 win.
Junior Ashley Riley led the team with 13 kills, while senior Kaelyn Riley added 11 and junior Kalli Nichol 10. Senior Jordyn Gaspers served up five aces, while senior Jordan Hunt and Kaelyn Riley had two blocks each.
The win advanced L-FL to the third-place match, setting up a rematch from the first-round loss against Saratoga.
The Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Lady Doggers went on a 7-1 run which was capped by Kaelyn Riley’s kill.
L-FL went on to win the opening set 25-15, but the teams traded set wins over the next three sets with Saratoga winning the second set 25-20. The Lady Doggers won the third set 25-17, while the Panthers forced a fifth set with a 25-13 win.
In the final set, the L-FL found themselves in a battle to the final point.
Ashley Riley tied the set at five apiece with a kill, and the Lady Doggers took the lead on the ensuing point.
L-FL never trailed again the remainder of the set.
Saratoga drew within 13-12, forcing the Lady Doggers to use a timeout, but the one-point deficit proved as close as the Panthers came to regaining the lead as L-FL scored two of the final three points.
“They fought hard. They never gave up and played through a lot of stuff. Actually, Ashely’s shoulder is killing her. She never quit swinging,” Clark said. “I had to get tough on them. I had to yell a little bit to get them focused. All the way through, they stayed with me and never questioned anything I said.”
Ashley Riley had a team-high 19 kills, while Hunt had six blocks.
On Thursday when the two teams met, Saratoga got the best of L-FL with a 25-17, 25-23, 18-25, 28-26.
The Lady Doggers hung close in the opening set until a 5-1 spurt put distance between the two teams.
In the second set, a late rally came up short for L-FL.
The Lady Doggers trailed 24-21 and back-to-back kills from Ashley Riley brought her team back within one before Saratoga scored the final point.
A 7-0 run gave the Lady Doggers an 8-3 lead to force a fourth.
In the final set, L-FL jumped out to a 2-0 lead and kept things close throughout.
Senior Jordyn Gaspers tied the set at 26, but Saratoga scored the final two points of the set and match.
The win advanced the Panthers to the Class 1A semifinal round while dropping the Lady Doggers to the consolation side of the bracket.
Ashley Riley had 20 kills, while Kaelyn Riley added 13. Hunt had three blocks. Junior setter Jessy White had 53 assists.
“You always come in thinking you are going to take state,” Clark said. “I think, after losing that championship game at regionals, we thought, ‘oh, it wasn’t going to go like what we planned it, and we are going to have to work hard to make it our story’.”
Facing elimination Friday afternoon, the Lady Doggers took care of Arvada-Clearmont 25-17, 25-19, 25-10.
In the opening set, back-to-back attack errors gave L-FL a 3-2 lead, and the Lady Doggers lead only grew from there.
Late in the set, Ashley Riley connected on four straight kills to close out the opening set.
“She has been leader all the way through,” Clark said. “She gets us going. She gets us fired up. She has a never quit attitude where some of them get inside their heads and worry a little bit about stuff. She doesn’t.”
In the second set, Arvada-Clearmont raced out to an 8-0 lead.
However, the Lady Doggers weren’t going to go away, responding with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 10 apiece.
A double hit by Panthers gave L-FL a 14-13 advantage, and it was a lead the Lady Doggers never surrendered the remainder of the match.
Nichol led the L-FL charge with 11 kills, while Ashley Riley added 10. Nichol also added three blocks, while she and Gaspers had two aces each.
The win set up rematches with Kaycee and Saratoga as the Lady Doggers ended the season with a trio of wins, closing out the season with a 21-9 record.
It also ended the careers of three Lady Dogger seniors – Jordyn Gaspers, Jordan Hunt and Kaelyn Riley.
“They’ve been huge,” Clark said of the seniors. “(Kaelyn) said the other day, she was glad she got to play for Lingle. Jordan Hunt is calm all the way through. Jordyn Gaspers just keeps swinging and never quits swinging.”
“They are good kids,” she added. “They work hard and have been leaders.”