CASPER – Hyleigh Fornstrom and the rest of her Pine Bluffs teammates met at the team hotel Friday morning, a mere hour before they took to the court.
The talk was short but to the point.
“We came into a room and told each other that we’re going to pick each other up, and we’re going to move on, because we can’t change what was going on (Thursday),” the Pine Bluffs senior said. “That’s the past.”
Of course, Fornstrom was referring to Thursday’s five-set loss to Rocky Mountain in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament.
The Lady Hornets did just that, rallying from a one-set deficit to oust Tongue River, 18-25, 25-12, 25-16, 25-23 in an elimination match Friday afternoon at Casper Events Center.
No. 1-ranked Pine Bluffs (28-4) had no answer for Tongue River’s Seeara Wotjczak in the first set. The 5-foot-11 senior made her presence known all over the court, from attacking to blocking. She finished with three kills and two blocks in the set. One of Wotjczak’s kills bumped Tongue River ahead 12-10, and the Eagles eventually grew their lead to 21-18 off another Wotjczak slam, which allowed them to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
“We decided from there on, after there on, after the first set, that we weren’t going to just roll over and go out like that,” Fornstrom said.
Roll over they did not.
Pine Bluffs dominated the second set, thanks to a 15-4 run that helped create a 22-10 advantage and, ultimately, tie the match, 1-1. The Hornets looked like a different team in the second set after struggling on their attacks in the first. Fornstrom smashed three kills and added an ace serve to help get the equalizer. She finished with 12 kills, 13 digs, 16 assists and one block.
It was all Pine Bluffs after that. Senior Savannah Norman gave the Hornets a 2-1 lead in the match by slamming home one of her six kills on the day.
During the second and third sets, Pine Bluffs looked like a different offense. Instead of tense, the Hornets were relaxed and played loose.
“That’s the best (level) that we play at,” Fornstrom said. “After the first game, we were all tense, so we took a deep breath and we went on. We knew that we could play a lot better, and we just used their weaknesses to our advantage. We came together in the huddle and we talked about it before we went out (on the court).”
Tongue River, however, poured everything it had left into the fourth set and made Pine Bluffs work for the win. Pine Bluffs enjoyed a 16-7 lead before the Eagles began to rally. An ace from freshman Lily Krumm cut Pine Bluffs’ lead to 17-15. Later on, the Eagles pulled within a point at 23-22, but the Hornets held on.
“A match like that and a letdown like we had and the way we played, you don’t know how a team’s going to react to that,” Pine Bluffs coach Lisa Gilbert said. “I knew they had it in them, I just was hoping they knew that as well. When I heard that they got together, talked about, weren’t going to dwell on it, then I knew we’d be OK.”
Pine Bluffs faces Wright at 10:30 a.m. today in an elimination match.