Lady Rangers volleyball punch ticket to state

The KHS volleyball team is all smiles after punching their ticket to the 2A State Volleyball Tournament in Casper, following a 2-2 performance at last weekend's 2A West Regional Tournament in Lander. The Lady Rangers beat Wind River and Big Piney to secure their spot at state. (COURTESY PHOTO/Erica Small Skidmore)

Wins over Wind River, Big Piney highlight regionals

The Kemmerer High School volleyball team is returning to the 2A State Volleyball Tournament for the first time since 2018, thanks to a solid performance at last weekend’s 2A West Regional Tournament in Lander.

The Lady Rangers (14-20-2, 4-0 in 2A Southwest) posted a 2-2 record at regionals, opening the tourney with a decisive 3-0 win over Wind River (26-18, 25-17, 26-24). Kemmerer followed that with a 3-0 loss to Shoshoni (25-19, 25-18, 25-19), but rebounded well against Big Piney, punching their ticket to state with a 3-1 win ( 25-13, 19-25, 25-8, 25-15).

The Lady Rangers closed out the tournament with a hard-fought 3-0 loss to Greybull (26-24, 25-22, 25-19), and will be the No. 4 seed coming out of the West Thursday at Casper.

“I thought we came out strong against Wind River – we dominated in three,” said KHS head coach Jennifer Nielson. “I was really pleased with how they were playing. Against Shoshoni, they got too far ahead, and when we battled back, we just couldn’t get over the hump. We came back against Big Piney, and that sealed our deal for state. Greybull – man, that was a battle. We did lose in three, but the games were close. I would have liked that third seed, but hey, we’re going to state.”

The Lady Rangers will square off against Big Horn Thursday in the opening round of the 2A State Volleyball Tournament in Casper. The Lady Rams are the No. 1 seed out of the East, with a 28-8 overall record (5-1 in 2A Northeast play); this will be the first time the two teams have met this season.

“I have high expectations for state,” Nielson said. “I know we go in as the No. 4-seed, and we play No. 1 Big Horn to start. Big Horn is very talented, just a very good team. But one thing I notice about volleyball – it’s anybody’s game, on any day. If we execute, if we play our game, I think we can battle with Big Horn – I think we can win. I think a lot of teams will overlook us, and that’s OK – I’d rather teams overlook us, and we’ll be the underdogs. But we have to clean up a few things. We got caught standing quite a few times in the back row, and our wings need to be able to step up – when they tip to the 10-foot line, my wings have to be able to get there and get that ball up. Serving – those are free points you’re giving the opposition every time you miss, so we can’t do that.”

Nielson called the 2A West Regional Tournament a team effort, with strong play in every aspect of the game.

“My setter, Sydney Neria – as a senior, and a starter for four years, she makes really great decisions,” Nielson said. “My right side – Gracee Painter – she had a great regional tournament, in all aspects of the game. Laynee Walker – my libero – being able to dig those balls, she stood out. Our serving – everyone’s serving was great, they all did a remarkable job. We played as a team, and it was great to see.”

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