Three matches. All it takes from here on out is for the Douglas High School Lady Bearcats to win three consecutive matches and they’ll be State champions.
The Lady Cats earned the No. 2 seed in the 3A State Tournament after coming in second place at the Regional Tournament in Buffalo Nov. 1–2. The only opponent the Douglas knew they’d face in Buffalo was the Wheatland Bulldogs. The Cats and Dogs battled it out for three sets on Friday with Douglas advancing.
For head coach Angela Rhoades, the first win was exactly how she wanted to start the penultimate tournament. The girls jumped out early for the win, taking the first set 25–10. They dominated the second set 25–8 and the third 25–14.
After a comfortable three-hour break, the girls were back on the court for their semi-final regional matchup with Thermopolis. Douglas needed to win this match to guarantee they’d be in the upper half of the State bracket — a loss meant a more difficult path to be, at best, the three seed.
The Lady Cats handled the Bobcats in three sets for the win and a trip to the Championship match. It was the third matchup between the two schools, and the third that Douglas won with a 3–0 final. Despite the clean sweep, the match was far from simple for the Bearcats.
Thermopolis came in with extra fire, according to Rhoades, after upsetting their first-round opponents. Their fire pushed each and every member of the Douglas team to play better and work harder. The first set was won handily by Douglas, 25–17, battling every point through.
The second set was even closer, the narrowest margin of victory for Douglas on the tournament’s first day, at 25–22 before dominating a 25–10 third. The only loss of the weekend for Douglas came in the Championship match with Rawlins.
It was the second battle between the east’s top teams this year — and it ended the same as the first — with the Outlaws on top 3–1.
The Bearcats toughed their way through the first set with a 25–23 win. The first set was both the closest of the match and the only victory for DHS. Rawlins took the following sets by scores of 13-25, 14-25 and 18-25 to close out the match.
“I’m really proud of the team for getting to this championship match. With everything we went through this year with line up changes and adversities, I just can’t say enough about how much these girls have improved,” Rhoades said.
“Rawlins is a very good team who has put in a lot of work to have the success they have. Hopefully we can build on some of the great things we did against them and take that into the state tournament.”
With three games under their belts in Buffalo, the Lady Cats had plenty of opportunities to rack up stats. Junior Allyson Fertig dominated the net, coming back from the trip with 33 kills and three blocks. Junior Joslin Igo also racked up 30 kills, adding 26 digs and 16 serves received.
Three other members of the team joined Igo with more than 30 digs. Senior Andi Hunsicker dug 30 balls, while receiving a team-high 27 serves, and Kamdynn Townsend carried the team in both digs, 34, and assists with 74. Sophomore Chloe Collins ended up with 31 digs to go with 13 serves received and team-leading eight aces.
Junior Braiden Johnson ended the trip with 18 kills and 13 serves received. Alli Olsen also kept 13 serves in play while also contributing three kills and two blocks. Senior Abby Hoopman also added 11 digs to her totals.
The State Tournament will kick off Nov. 7 at the Casper Event Center. Douglas’ first match is scheduled for 3 p.m. against Lander. The winner of that game will move on to the semifinals with either Worland or Buffalo the following day. The 3A State Championship match is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Nov. 9.
There’s no knowing what will happen, but this run at the State Tournament will be the last for the team’s seniors, the end of a 22–13–2 season and the difference between a muted return and joyous celebration.