Evanston faced Green River for the fifth time this season. This time it was for the Class 4A Championship on Saturday. Unfortunately for Lady Devil fans, the result was a fourth loss for Evanston and a runner-up finish.
“The girls are tough kids and they’re OK,” Evanston coach Tera Lawlar said. “They’re very sad, but very smart. They put it into perspective. We still made history. It was the first time in the championship game. We really enjoyed the whole ride. It was a great season. It’s something they’ll remember forever. On the bus (going home) the girls asked me to go back there and make them feel better. I told them that I wouldn’t trade second place with them for first with any other team.”
The Lady Devils returned every girl, but one from last year’s team that did not qualify for the state tournament.
“I think last year we didn’t have the fight that we had this year,” Katie Thomas said.
Kelsi Thornock said a lot of it was the extra work that the team put in over the off-season.
Evanston started the championship match off very well. The first game stayed close until the Lady Devils were ahead 16-15. Evanston closed the game on a 9-4 run to take the first game 25-19. The run was sparked by two Katie Thomas kills. Erin Kirby, Thornock and Alyssa Hagstrom each had a kill during the run.
Kirby started the second game by dominating the net. She had two kills and a block as the Lady Devils built an early 5-1 lead. Green River was not going to go away though and battled back to take a 7-6 lead.
Evanston went on another long run (17-8) to take a 23-15 lead in the game.
A Katie Thomas block and an ace by Hagstrom started the run.
Kirby knocked down four kills during the streak to keep the momentum with the Lady Devils.
Kirby led the team with 16 kills and nine solo blocks during the title match.
Again Green River fought back. The Lady Wolves cut Evanston’s lead to 24-23 when Lawlar called a time out. After talking things over, Thornock hit a game-winning kill to give Evanston a two game to zero lead.
“We came out great the first two games. We were playing to win and playing strong,” Lawlar said. “(In the third game) I thought we played a little safer. We didn’t play to win. We played not to lose and we got a little complacent.”
The Lady Wolves scored the first six points of the third game. Evanston battled back, but could not get closer than two points. An ace by Green River gave them the third game, 25-14.
The Lady Devils found themselves down big again in game four. Green River built a 19-10 lead. Hagstrom hit a kill. Lauren Thomas got a block and the momentum changed to Evanston. The Lady Devils cut the lead to 23-21, before Green River knocked down a kill to reach game point and Lawlar called a time out.
After the time out, Thornock hit a kill and Kirby got a block to cut the lead to 24-23. The Lady Devils missed their serve, handing the game to Green River and sending the championship match into a decisive fifth game.
Evanston jumped out to an early 4-2 advantage. But the Lady Wolves scored eight of the next 10 points. Trailing 10-6, the Lady Devils couldn’t do enough to come back and lost 15-8.
Green River came from behind to win the championship 19-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-23, 15-8.
“Before the fifth game, we still believed. We thought we were OK,” Lawlar said. “On point 14, I saw it in their faces, ‘Oh my gosh, what have we done?’ It’s sad. I wish we could have eked it out, obviously. They’ll be OK and I couldn’t be prouder. “
Katie Thomas knocked down 13 kills. Lauren Thomas and Thornock each had six solo blocks.
Jessica Chandler dished out 21 assists and Bernie Gutierrez led the defense with 26 digs.
The Lady Devils went 4-0 this season against Casper teams. Their only losses were to Green River and Bonneville (Idaho).
“They’re great kids and have a lot going for them. We had a great season,” Lawlar said. “Obviously, this is not what we wanted, but they can learn a lot from this.”
On Friday night, Evanston advanced to the school’s first state championship game in volleyball with a 25-18, 19-25, 25-22, 19-25, 15-8 victory over defending state 4A champion Kelly Walsh.
“They’re a really good team. They’re awfully big so they’ll put up a formidable block at the net. They’ll play really hard,” Kelly Walsh Jeff Barkell coach said prior to the match. “I think it will be a good match. They’ll got a lot of weapons and we’ve got a few, too.”
The Lady Devils led 6-5 in the fifth game, when Kelly Walsh blocked a Thornock kill attempt out of bounds. The next point ended on a Katie Thomas kill. After a hitting error by Kelly Walsh, a block by Thornock and another kill by Katie Thomas, the Lady Devils held an 11-5 lead. Chandler served five points in a row during the run.
“I was thinking ‘over and in.’ I’ve never had doubt when I was back there,” Chandler said. “I play for my team. That’s what was going through my head.”
Evanston went on to win the fifth game 15-8.
Katie Thomas had 14 kills in the match. Thornock knocked down eight kills and had nine solo blocks.
The Lady Devils went on a big run in the first game after taking an 11-10 advantage. Evanston outscored Kelly Walsh 7-1 to take an 18-11 lead. The Lady Devils allowed Kelly Walsh to get back in the game and cut the lead to 24-18. Thornock and Breanna Sanders came up with a block to give the game to the Lady Devils.
In the second game, Evanston led 19-17 but Kelly Walsh scored eight points in a row to take the game.
“When we lost, we came out even stronger in the third game,” Chandler said.
After losing the second game, Evanston trailed 19-15 in the third game.
“We were down and (Lawlar) said this was the game we could show how bad we really wanted it,” Kirby said.
A couple of errors by Kelly Walsh brought Evanston within one point. Kirby had a huge block to tie the game. After a Kelly Walsh kill, Kirby came up with another block to tie the game.
“When you get a big kill or block or a good pass, the momentum just changes,” Kirby said.
She finished the match with 16 kills, one hitting error and 13 solo blocks.
“We had heart, while Kelly Walsh had experience. Tera and I were talking and we’d rather have heart than experience any day,” Chandler said.
“I think that’s the most heart we showed all year,” Hagstrom said.
Evanston finished the game out to take a 2-1 lead.
The theme of Evanston’s first round match was comebacks by the Lady Devils as they prevailed 25-23, 25-21, 25-27, 25-10.
The Lady Devils got down 6-0 in the first game, and still trailed 14-12.
“I think we get really nervous when it comes to big games,” Hagstrom said. “We’ve never been this successful or had this experience.”
“This was almost everyone’s first state game, so I think there were jitters,” Kirby said.
Kirby knocked down a kill and then Hagstrom hit an ace to even the score. The Lady Devils were able to hold on to the lead . Kirby hit another kill to give Evanston the first game.
In the second game, Evanston fell behind 4-1. They trailed 15-13, but then scored the next five points to go ahead 18-15.
The Lady Devils got off to a slow start in game three as well, trailing 6-1. This time they were unable to come back.
Thornock started serving in the fourth game and this time Evanston took the lead, getting ahead 8-0 on her serve, including two aces.
“I kind of struggled with serving, so my goal was not to miss at state,” Thornock said. “Every time I went back there, I said ‘I’m going to make it. I’m going to make it.’ As I kept going, it got better.”
The Lady Devils cruised through the game and advanced to the semifinals.