Hard work and determination leads to state trophy

The Lady Wolverines made the long trek to Ammon High School last week to compete in the 2022 3A Idaho State Volleyball Tournament. They qualified for the tournament by finishing in second place in the Snake River Valley (SRV) Conference District Tournament behind league rivals, the Fruitland Grizzlies.  
 Going into the tournament, the Lady Wolverines were ranked third in the state in the 3A division behind the Kimberly Bulldogs and the Fruitland Grizzlies, but they had high hopes that they could change that ranking by bringing home top honors in the tournament.  
 Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for the Lady Wolverines to take the champion honors back to Weiser, but nevertheless, the Weiser ladies fought hard, kept their head in the game, and made it into Championship Saturday and secured a third place finish and received the hardware to prove it.
Bonners Ferry
 The Lady Wolverines began the tournament against sixth seed, Bonners Ferry.  Both teams seemed quite evenly matched early in the first set, but the Lady Wolverines began to gradually add to their lead with hard hitting and great serving. 
 Leading by only 2-points at 12-10, senior, Jasi Yraguen, slammed down a hard kill to get the momentum on the side of the Wolverines.  
 In the following 7-3 scoring run, the Wolverines tallied a service ace from Abi Wilkins and two from Yraguen. In addition to serving successes, Paisley Noyer and Mattie Shirts were strong in the front row, adding to the lead with big hits to take a 19-13 lead. The Lady Wolverines had the set all sewn up at 24-19, but three Weiser errors gave Bonners Ferry an opportunity to mount a comeback and pulled within 2-points at 22-24. Yraguen placed a hard hit into the center of the Bonners Ferry court, and the Wolverines took the first set 25-22.
 The second set was back and forth, trading points and side-outs to the 10-10 mark when Abi Wilkins got the tip kill with a well-placed ball.  Danica Lockett followed with a free ball that wasn’t returned, Kamryn Doty got 2 kills, and Noyer slammed down an overfed pass, giving the Wolverines a 17-13 lead.  
 For the remainder of the set, the Wolverines were on fire with Madi Wilkins in the serving position. Wilkins served for 7-points, aided by 3 kills from Noyer, 2 kills from Shirts and a service ace.  
 Leading 23-13, the Lady Wolverines allowed only two more points to Bonners Ferry, and Abi Wilkins finished the set with a sneaky tip into the Bonners Ferry court and the 25-15 win.
 With a sweep within their grasp, the Lady Wolverines went to work and never slowed down in the third set, never trailing throughout the set. Bonners Ferry struggled with service and hitting errors, and the Lady Wolverines capitalized on every opportunity given to them.  
 With a 13-10 lead, Noyer got a big kill to place Yraguen behind the service line.  Three service aces by Yraguen, a kill from Shirts, and a stuff block by Noyer placed the Lady Wolverines firmly in command with a 20-10 lead.  
 Play got a little messy for a couple of side-outs, but the Lady Wolverines regrouped and took the third and final set 25-14 and the match 3-0.
Fruitland
 The Lady Wolverines had the strange misfortune to begin the tournament on the same side of the bracket as the Fruitland Grizzlies, the only SRV Conference competitor that they had lost to during the 2022 season. The Grizzlies won their first match, as did the Lady Wolverines against Bonners Ferry, which pitted the SRV squads against one another for the fourth time this season.
 The Lady Wolverines got off to a strong start playing good defense, picking up balls and keeping them in play, and hitting hard. Other than one time early in the set, the Lady Wolverines never trailed by more than 1-point and literally went point-for-point with the Grizzlies to the very end.  However, big hits from Shirts and Yraguen at the critical juncture, helped to put the Lady Wolverines on top 27-25, taking the first set.
 The Grizzlies took an early lead in the second set, and although the Lady Wolverines stayed within striking distance, they simply were unable to overtake the Grizzlies, and dropped the second set 21-25.
 The air was sucked out of the Lady Wolverines’ sails in the third set, and they quickly found themselves trailing 10-6. They tried to get back into the set, but things were just not going their way and the Grizzlies continued to add points to their side of the scoreboard, while the Lady Wolverines struggled to put a string of points together. Finally, the deficit was too large to overcome, and the Lady Wolverines lost the third set 25-15.
 Determined to stay in the fight, the Lady Wolverines went to work and battled hard against the Grizzlies. The Weiser ladies stayed neck and neck throughout the set, but simply ran out of time in the waning points and lost the set 23-25 and the match 1-3.
South Fremont
 The disappointing loss against the Fruitland Grizzlies pushed the Lady Wolverines into the loser’s bracket of the tournament, but the 3A Idaho State Tournament is a true double elimination tournament, and the Lady Wolverines could potentially work their way around and back into the championship game, but they first had to play the Cougars from South Fremont in their third match of what had turned out to be a very long day for the Wolverines.
 Whether it was fatigue, frustration, or just simply a bad set, the Lady Wolverines got off to a very rough start in the first set against the Cougars. The Lady Wolverines fell behind early 7-11 and sadly, things never really improved. Between messy play, service errors, hitting errors, and missed blocks, the Wolverines were definitely out-of-sorts and ultimately gave up the first set to the Cougars 13-25.
 Whatever was discussed in the brief period between sets was certainly inspiring or motivating because the Lady Wolverines hit the court in the second set a different team, and they completely turned the tables on the Cougars.  
 The Lady Wolverines quickly jumped out in the lead 7-2. Despite a service error and side-out, the Cougars were no match for the Wolverines. Two kills by Mattie Shirts placed libero, Bailey Coleman behind the service line. With three service aces from Coleman and strong defense, the Wolverines surged to an 11-point, 15-4 lead.  The Lady Wolverines continued to work hard for every ball and took the second set from the Cougars with a reversal of fortunes from the first set 25-13.
 The third set began with a big collaborative stuff block from Paisley Noyer and Kamryn Doty, and the Lady Wolverines were off with a surge of momentum and a composed level of play that they are so capable of, but sometimes lose. 
 Abi Wilkins began serving and with consistent serving and two kills from Yraguen, the Wolverines were up 5-0 in rapid fashion. The Lady Wolverines began a 14-9 scoring run on the struggling Cougars, which was aided by two kills apiece from Mattie Shirts, Yraguen, and Abi Wilkins, while Yraguen and Noyer each walled-up at the net for one stuff block each.  
 With a commanding 20-11 lead, the Lady Wolverines remained focused on the goal and worked for every point and minimized their errors to take the third set 25-15.
 The fatigue began to creep up on the Lady Wolverines in the fourth set, which was understandable given their 3-match day, but despite a bumpy start in the beginning of the set with a 4-8 deficit, the Lady Wolverines gradually began to chip their way back into the set.  
 Yraguen and A. Wilkins each had big blocks and Yraguen made the impossible seem possible with an off-balance hit for the kill.  A. Wilkins came up big with 2 kills, and suddenly the Wolverines had pulled within 1-point to 10-11.  
 The Lady Wolverines fell behind one more time 10-14, but a kill from Wilkins placed her back in serving position, where she was able to serve for 4-points and tie the set 14-14 with the aid of kills by both Yraguen and Doty.  
 The Wolverines and the Cougars traded points and possession for the next 28-points.  Well beyond the requisite 25-points, and tied 28-28, the set seemed like it would never conclude. However, a service error followed by a hitting miscalculation gave the last 2-points to the Cougars, and they won the set 28-30.
 The match came down to a fifth set tie-breaker and as any volleyball enthusiast knows, the fifth set is difficult.  Fifteen-points can go so quickly, and there is virtually no room for errors because there is limited points to catch up if you fall behind.  With that fact heavy on their minds, the Lady Wolverines took to the court with an impressive vigor.  
 Abi Wilkins began to serve, and with another big block by Noyer and Doty and a kill by Doty, the Wolverines found themselves 1/3 the way to the goal with a 5-0 lead.  
 For the balance of the set, the only points that the Cougars scored were a result of a Wolverine error. While the Wolverines worked hard offensively with 2 kills by Shirts, one by Yraguen and one from A. Wilkins, the Lady Wolverines breezed to a fifth set win 15-8 and the match 3-2.
Saturday - Snake River
 When the tournament resumed on Saturday morning, the remaining four teams were guaranteed a trophy to take home to their respective schools. The last Weiser High School state volleyball trophy was for fourth place in 2016. The 2022 Lady Wolverine team was looking to improve on that finish.
 The Lady Wolverines faced the Snake River Panthers early Saturday morning, and for the first half of the set, the Lady Wolverines seemed to be in slow motion or still a bit groggy from the long day previously.  
 Trailing 7-14, things were looking grim, but a side-out placed Danica Lockett back to serve, and the Lady Wolverines turned it around and began playing like they can.  Hard hits and tough defense kept Lockett serving, and in short order, the Wolverines had pulled even 14-14. 
 For the balance of the set, the Lady Wolverines were on task and took a 19-15 lead with Abi Wilkins in serving position.  
 With a 22-18 lead over the Panthers, the Panthers made a 5-point surge and took the lead. However, the Lady Wolverines pushed on and took the first set 25-23.
 The Lady Wolverines took an early 10-5 lead in the second set, and with scrappy play and hard hitting, they never relinquished the lead throughout the set, and won 25-22.
 The Snake River Panthers pulled the third set away from the Lady Wolverines in the waning points, 25-23, but the Lady Wolverines rallied back with intensity to take the fourth set 25-17 and the match 3-1.
Fruitland
 The win over Snake River guaranteed the Lady Wolverines a third place finish and also pitted them against the Fruitland Grizzlies for the fifth time in the 2022 season and the second time in as many days.  
 Unfortunately, the Grizzlies had bested the Wolverines in all four previous meetings, and sadly, the same thing happened in this final match.  
 The Lady Wolverines fought hard and played scrappy volleyball, but the Grizzlies do not allow their opponents any errors without consequences. Therefore, the Grizzlies took the match in straight sets 25-21, 25-14, and 25-21.
 Cumulative stats for the entire State Tournament for the Lady Wolverines yielded big numbers starting with Jasi Yraguen leading the team with 51 kills, 11 aces, and 15 blocks.  Mattie Shirts was a very close second with 50 kills and 18 blocks. Abi Wilkins had 40 kills and 7 service aces. Paisley Noyer tallied 30 kills and 15 blocks.  Kamryn Doty had 7 blocks.  
 Defensively, Bailey Coleman and Madi Wilkins led the team with 112 and 84 digs, respectively. Madi Wilkins and Danica Lockett  also tallied 7 service aces apiece.
 Head Coach Lindsay Grant stated, “I am so proud of the girls and their hard work and accomplishments this season.” She added, “They competed hard at State and throughout the season and represented Weiser well.”
 

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