The Kemmerer High School volleyball team improved its record to 11-16-2 on the season last Thursday, beating visiting Big Piney in four sets, 25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 25-12.
Lady Rangers head coach Jennifer Nielson was forced to get creative with her lineup, due to an untimely injury earlier in the week.
“It was good – it was Homecoming week, so that’s crazy as it is,” said KHS head coach Jennifer Nielson. “And then our libero went down earlier in the week with a sprained ankle, so she was out, and I had to come up with a new lineup, shift some girls around. I was pleased with how they executed, and it turned out in our favor, so that was good.”
Kemmerer cruised through the first two sets, winning 25-15 and 25-14. Big Piney played inspired in the third set, however, while the Lady Rangers lost focus for a bit, falling 25-23.
“That third set, we just weren’t very intense,” Nielson explained. “We weren’t scrappy like we were the first two sets – we kind of got complacent. With that, those are the types of teams that will beat you. It wasn’t our best, but we came back and won the fourth set, so it was good. We went back to playing like we were supposed to, and it worked out.”
The Lady Rangers regained their intensity in the fourth set, cruising to a 25-12 win. While the new lineup may have seemed strange for Nielson and her players, it achieved the desired effect.
“With this new lineup, I moved Laynee Walker to libero – she’s quick, she’s fast, she’s not afraid to hit the floor,” Nielson said. “I moved Savannah Ellis to the outside, and she proved to be a threat out there. I had Gracee Painter play all the way around, and she did just fine. I had to have a different lineup, but what I have now is good – I think that’s how it’s going to have to stay with us being three weeks out until regionals.”
Gracee Painter led the attack with 10 kills, followed by eight kills from Sydney Neria and six kills from Natasha Martinez; Janae Skidmore finished with five kills.
Martinez and Neria were outstanding from the service line, recording four aces each; Neria also led the team in digs, with 20. Martinez followed with 14 digs, while Laynee Walker and Savannah Ellis led the team in serve receive, with 14 apiece.
“My younger kids started as freshmen – they knew they had to fill some big shoes, and transition from junior high ball to varsity ball,” Nielson said. “They didn’t get that JV experience. And being a small school, sometimes that’s what you have to do. I’ve always believed in putting the best six kids out on the floor, whether you’re a freshman or a senior – it doesn’t matter to me. When I switched the girls around, they have good volleyball sense. Laynee Walker was nervous, but you wouldn’t have known – she’s just a superb athlete. I had total faith in her, and she did exactly what was asked of her. I couldn’t ask for anything more, from all six of them that were out there.”
The Lady Rangers finish up conference play this Friday at Wyoming Indian, then close out the regular season next week, with non-conference matches scheduled against Lyman and Shoshoni. The 2A West Regional Tournament begins Friday, Oct. 28, in Lander.
“We have Wyoming Indian on Friday, and that’s our last conference game of the regular season,” Nielson said. “Hopefully we win that, and we’ll go into regionals first in our quad, so that will be good.”