By Amanda Eggert EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – Lone Peak closed the regular season with a hard-fought win against White Sulphur Springs Oct. 22—the first time the Big Horns have defeated the Hornets outside of tournament play in their four-year history.

“They’ve been sort of a nemesis for us,” said head coach Sarah Phelps. “They’re the only team we haven’t been able to beat in regular season play, so this was a great way for us to end the season.”

The first set was the closest, and the only one that ended in the Hornets’ favor. After Lone Peak lost 25-22, Phelps made changes on defense to better counter White Sulphur Springs’ offense. The adjustment paid off and the Big Horns ended the night with 81 digs to the Hornets’ 41.

“Eighty-one digs is huge for us because they were hitting at us, they were attacking the ball and we were able to combat it,” Phelps said. “Our defense really stepped up.” Senior Luisa Locker led the defensive charge from the back row with 22 digs, and sophomore Solae Swenson led at the net with 2.5 blocks and 14 kills.

In total, Lone Peak fired 45 kills over the net to White Sulphur Springs’ 25. “That’s a big discrepancy when we’re pulling in 20 more kills, and a big part of that was Solae and Kuka [Holder} and KP [Hoffman] killing it at the net,” Phelps said.

The Hornets remained in contention throughout the game—the last three sets ended 25-20, 25-20 and 25-13, all in Lone Peak’s favor—by blocking and serving aggressively. They scored 10 blocks and 12 aces on the night.

Junior Bryn Iskendarian, a consistent leader from the service line this season, scored five of the Big Horns’ seven aces.

At the end of the game, Kevin Barton from Ace Hardware awarded an “Ace of the Game” to a player from each team. Barton gave the recognition to the Big Horns’ Swenson, a middle blocker who’s been a reliable leader in both kills and blocks this season.

“She was a spark for us in the game,” Phelps said. Swenson holds Lone Peak’s record for kills with 16.

The Big Horns closed the season 7-3 in district play (13-3 overall) and were seeded No. 2 heading into the 11C District Tournament, Oct. 27-28 at Manhattan Christian. The two teams they’ve lost to this season are White Sulphur Springs on the road Sept. 29, and Gardiner, the only undefeated team in the district.

Phelps was focusing on blocking and aggressive team play coming into the tournament. Their first game was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 27, the day after EBS went to press.

Phelps said the Big Horns have to play smart, aggressive volleyball to make an impression at districts. “We could absolutely compete with Gardiner—I have no question. Anything could happen at tournament time.”