RAWLINS — The Rawlins High School volleyball team (15-6, 6-0) was busy last week as postseason play kicked off across the state. The layout for regional volleyball was a bit different this year due to COVID-19 considerations.
Instead of the usual 3A East and 3A West regional volleyball tournaments, teams in each of the four 3A quadrants (Northeast, Southeast, Northwest and Southwest) met on Thursday to battle for a finish in the top two and secure a spot in the state tournament. Following Thursday’s quadrant play, the top four teams in the east and top four in the west met on Saturday to play for seeding at the state tournament.
Following regular season play, Rawlins was at the top of the 3A Southeast with a 6-0 record in the quadrant, so it got to play host to the quadrant qualifying games on Thursday. The Outlaws started postseason play with a match against Burns (8-13, 0-8).
The Outlaws made quick work of the Broncs, easily shutting them out in straight sets, 25-19, 25-14 and 25-18. Senior Maddison Wright stuck out in the Burns match, consistently blocking and putting down strong kills in the middle.
After Rawlins swept Burns, Wheatland (14-7, 4-4) took on Torrington to determine who would play the Outlaws for the quadrant crown. Wheatland was able to shut the Trailblazers down in four sets, 25-13, 23-25,25-19 and 25-19.
On Thursday evening, the Outlaws took the court against the Bulldogs for the third time this season. Despite a slow start in the first set, Rawlins was able to secure a commanding 25-18 victory. Again, Wright looked strong in the middle. She picked up three big kills and a block in the first set alone.
Junior Jessie Jermone also looked on point in the first set. Jerome slammed three consecutive kills at the midway point of the set to bring it back within reach for the Outlaws. Wright closed it out for the Outlaws with a kill to give her team the 1-0 lead heading into the second set.
Rawlins jumped out to a quick lead in the second set and never relinquished it. Despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts, the offensive pressure from the Outlaws was too much. The set started with three huge, consecutive Rawlins kills. Seniors Mckenzie Earl and Brooke Palmer got the Outlaws going, the Wright tacked on another of her own to take a quick 3-0 lead.
Rawlins kept their momentum rolling through the whole set, with Earl, Wright and Palmer continuing to tack on offensive points. Senior Aliya Edwards managed a couple clutch blocks as well, adding to the Outlaws lead and further stifling Wheatland’s efforts.
With the score at 22-19, Palmer found the floor with another kill to put Outlaws up 24-19. Again, Wright stepped up with two huge kills to finish the set and secure the win 25-19, putting Rawins up 2-0.
Wheatland wouldn’t go down without a fight. In the third set, the team managed to jump out to a 3-0 lead over the Outlaws. A kill from Edwards and a block and off-speed tip from Wright quickly tied the score at 3-3 and would mark the last time Wheatland had a lead in the set.
With the score at 23-18, Edwards blocked a Wheatland attack to force a game point, 24-19. The Bulldogs kept swinging but hit a wall in the form of Jerome’s arms as she shut down another attack with a big block to secure the set and the match, 25-19.
The win on Thursday evening gave Rawlins the top spot in the 3A Southeast quadrant and guaranteed a trip to the state tournament. The team then had to travel north to Douglas for the cross-quadrant seeding games on Saturday. The locations of the cross-quadrant tournaments were hosted at predetermined sites and teams were vying for two wins on the day, which would equal a top seed in the 3A state championship tournament.
On Saturday morning, Rawlins matched up against Buffalo. They quickly shut down the Bison in three sets, 25-13, 25-17 and 25-10. The win pushed them into the regional championship game against Douglas. Douglas beat Wheatland to make it to the championship, 25-7, 14-25, 25-16 and 25-20.
Douglas proved to be a bit too much for Rawlins. The Outlaws dropped the match in three sets, 25-18, 26-24 and 25-20. The Bearcats finished as regional champions and earned a top seed at the state championships. On the west side of the state, Pinedale cruised to the championship and will be the other top seed in the bracket.
At the conclusion of the regional tournaments the state bracket was set. Rawlins will face Worland High School, which they beat in the 2019 state championship game, at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 6 on court No. 2 at the Casper Events Center. All matches will be played on Friday with the championship round starting at 4 pm.