CASPER – Getting out of bed Saturday morning to play again after suffering an excruciatingly painful loss that likely won’t be forgotten for years, perhaps lifetimes, was no easy task.
But it’s what Cheyenne East was dealt.
The Lady Thunderbirds made good on what they could by narrowly escaping disaster in a five-set win over Star Valley and then completed a 25-15, 25-23, 25-23 sweep over Riverton – their first of the Class 4A state tournament – to capture third place late Saturday afternoon at Casper Events Center.
“It was very difficult,” T-Birds senior Madison Blaney said. “(There were) a lot of tears (Friday) night. But we came together as a team and that’s what matters, and that’s what allowed us to win.”
Blaney led No. 3-ranked East (31-7) with 13 kills and hit .400 for the match. She slammed one of those kills to give the T-Birds a 10-6 lead in the first set and, ultimately, a 1-0 lead in the match. Blaney also added an ace serve, a block and 14 digs to her stat line.
“It’s knowing it’s their last match and giving it all they got,” East coach Nicole Quigley said of her seniors going all-out. “Everyone’s in the same boat in this situation, and they wanted to come out fired up and ready to go and end in good standing, because they’re a great team.”
Senior Shae Halls ended with six kills, an ace, a block and eight digs, while classmate Sloane Danni posted a team-best two aces and added nine digs. Senior Ky Buell registered a team-best 27 assists paired with nine digs.
“It’s bittersweet. I’m done, you know?” Danni said. “It’s sad, but I was happy to end in third. I was relieved to know that I left it all out there.”
The second set was closer than the first. But the T-Birds took an 18-15 advantage late and, after trading points for what seemed like forever, moved ahead two sets to none thanks to one of junior Hailey Marshall’s 12 kills.
East built a 15-11 cushion on the third set and, knowing how everything has not come easy during the state tournament, they knew they had a good chance of securing the sweep. The T-Birds’ lead was in jeopardy when the Lady Wolverines later cut the deficit to 23-21.
That’s when Blaney stepped up and smashed her final kill of the day, the season and her career to help ensure the T-Birds got the win.
“(I’m) just trying to win those points,” Blaney said. “This game was super, super important for us, and we wanted to finish it. This weekend definitely didn’t go as we planned, but just finishing that game in three (sets) was super important.”
Completing a sweep, no matter who the opponent, seemed impossible after what happened Saturday night. Somehow, someway, the T-Birds pulled together one final time.
“To end with a sweep, it definitely was refreshing,” Danni said. “This weekend was hard. We win the first two and we’d fall (in) the last two and then we’d go to a fifth (against Star Valley). But it is refreshing knowing that we ended on a positive note.”