Lone Peak falls 3-2 to Shields Valley despite unlikely comeback
By Jack Reaney ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Lone Peak High School hosted Shields Valley High School in the Big Horns’ home-opening match on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 2. Despite a disappointing loss, head coach Bailey Dowd saw learning opportunities for the young team.
The Big Horns dropped the first two games of the best-of-five match, showing some inexperience between communication and execution. However, with their backs against the wall, the Big Horns snapped into action and took the next two games, forcing a winner-take-all fifth game. The Rebels, down 8-6, went on a nine-for-11 run to seal the game, 15-10, and the match, 3-2. The Big Horns now hold a record of 0-2, following game-five losses against West Yellowstone and now Shields Valley.
Dowd called it heartbreaking to see the team ignite a comeback but fall just short. Still, there was much to learn for the young team.
“That’s definitely something we’re going to practice now that we’ve had two fifth game losses,” coach Dowd said after the match. “Playing those short games in practice and getting used to the pressure.”
The Big Horn starting six is mostly new since last year, with only senior Ella Meredith and junior Claire Hoadley back from significant roles last season. Dowd said sophomore Lily Turner “has really stepped up,” but the Big Horns are also playing without senior Vera Grabow, a four-year varsity player and clear team leader. Grabow suffered a broken ankle over the summer, and coach Dowd hopes she’ll be back in October.
“We graduated a big class last year. There’s girls playing roles that are new to them, playing next to players that are new to them,” coach Dowd said. “[It] takes a while to find that groove and that trust, and we call it ‘tempo’ when things can all run smoothly and on our own beat.”
‘A lot of heart’
After losing two games on Saturday, the Big Horns found their tempo.
Ella Meredith opened game three with a dramatic spike, and Claire Hoadley added two of her own, giving the Big Horns an 8-3 lead. Dominance from both veteran hitters helped extend the Big Horn lead to 20-8, and they won 25-13.
“Ella Meredith played fantastic in game three,” Dowd said. “She really brought the energy back to the team, both in blocking and kills.”
Game four was a different story—the Big Horns and Rebels traded points and kept the game close. The game was tied at 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 17 points. Senior Emerson Tatom served a stretch of five winning points, and junior Aubrey Farr—the team’s libero replacing graduate Jessie Bough—added a few saves from the back line. The Big Horns won 25-19, forcing game five.
Suddenly, the once quiet gym came to life as Lone Peak created an opportunity to steal the match, 3-2.
After game two, coach Dowd recalled, “We just talked about having fight and desire and defending our home court. And not wanting to go home early. And wanting to fight it out, work hard and try to go to five games. And that’s exactly what we did.
“I’m really proud of the way the girls turned it around after two back-to-back losses, and them not playing their best during it. I think in that third game, they played as good as I’ve seen them play this season. That’s the energy that we need to take into every game we play,” Dowd said.
Winning in five games is much harder than winning in three, Dowd explained—in a game five, which goes to 15 points rather than 25, brevity and momentum swings add a mental challenge.
Shields Valley jumped ahead 4-0, but Meredith blocked two consecutive shots and got the Big Horns on the board. They won a long point to tie the game at 6 apiece, and sophomore Stella Haas gave the Big Horns an 8-6 lead with a block that her Shields Valley opponent didn’t even see—the Rebel apparently turned to celebrate a spike that didn’t kill.
After that point, however, the Rebels won seven of the next eight points. Coach Dowd called a time out and implored to her team, “We are gonna with this game. We are gonna win this game. We are gonna win this game.”
The Big Horns scored after the pep talk, drawing the Rebels’ lead to 13-10. But that was the final point for the Big Horns.
Coach Dowd said the team will continue to learn and make adjustments.
“I’m proud of the girls’ fight, they showed a lot of determination and really worked to come back from 2-0,” Dowd said. “That takes a lot of heart, and we’re going to carry that heart into our games Tuesday and Friday.”