By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – In a match that swung on a pendulum of back-and-forth momentum, the Lone Peak High School varsity volleyball team lost on Thursday night to the Shields Valley Rebels in four games, bringing their conference record to 1-3. The Bough-Dolan Athletic Center was high energy all evening as the team vied point for point against the older Rebels.
Early in the first game, both teams struggled to pull ahead as they got into a groove of setting up each play and finishing with a kill on the other side of the net. A solid dig by LPHS junior libero Jessie Bough—one of her seven for the night—helped junior setter Emily Graham set up senior middle blocker TJ Nordahl up for a kill, showing the level of execution the Big Horns would find sporadically throughout the rest of the match.
Still, the Big Horns struggled the entire match to side-out immediately after a lost point, letting the Rebels answer with runs of their own. As the home team, half comprised of underclassmen, tightened their shoulders and lingered on the previous play, the Rebels would take advantage, often putting the ball in the hands of strong hitters like junior Jaeli Jenkins and senior Morgan Fairchild.
“It’s no secret that volleyball is huge in momentum and there’s always really huge swings back and forth in high school sports,” said assistant coach Bailey Dowd, who led the Big Horns from the bench with head coach Ellen Wolferman currently out. “Clearing our minds each play and resetting the tone that we have control over the game is what the girls really need to think about. And when we have the momentum, we need to try and keep it longer by making our serves and playing some really good defense.”
The Big Horns had their own comebacks, with well-placed deep serves by Bough and junior defensive specialist Haley Houghteling, and powerful swings at the net and from behind the 10-foot line by junior outside hitter Maddie Cone, re-energizing the Big Horns at several critical points. Cone led the Big Horns in kills and blocks with seven and three respectively.
Sophomore middle blocker Ella Meredith and freshman right-side hitter Claire Hoadley brought height to the Big Horns front row, putting up two blocks apiece. With more strategy than force, Meredith placed the ball in the Rebels’ uncovered center court at opportune moments, following Cone in kills with five.
After losing the first game 27-25 and the second game 22-25, the Big Horns fought hard to pick off the third game from the Rebels and stay in the match. Dowd, a calm presence from the sideline, called a timeout with the Big Horns down 21-22. The Big Horns stepped back on to the court with tempered nerves, executing the next play with a big kill by Cone. Toward the end of the third game, the student section began filling up, elevating the energy to help earn the team a win.
The Big Horns came out composed in the fourth game, setting the tone with a couple blocks to shut down the Rebels’ Jenkins. The Rebels answered with a quick set to Fairchild and other plays the Big Horns hadn’t been forced to defend the whole match. Still, the Big Horns’ back row showed fight, not letting a ball hit the floor without an attempt at digging it up. The Big Horns lost the fourth game 25-18.
The Big Horns junior varsity team lost to the Rebels in three games. The young team made up almost entirely of freshmen is showing improvements from the beginning of the season, but the Rebels bested them in their ability to set up plays more consistently and deliver tougher balls across the net.
The Big Horns will head into their next conference game against Lima on the road on Sept. 24 and will play at home against Twin Bridges on Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.