WHEATLAND – The Lingle-Fort Laramie Lady Doggers swept their way to the championship game Saturday in Wheatland, where they faced some resistance, but eventually won the 1A East Regional Title.
“I’m really proud of our team,” senior Jade Cooper said. “All of the new starters really stepped up and I’m so proud of them, especially at the end of the season.”
L-FL struggled to get out of the gates against Rock River in the championship game. The Lady Longhorns rushed out to a 9-4 lead, forcing a Lady Dogger timeout. Coming back to the court, L-FL still couldn’t regain its footing, surrendering to a 14-7 lead before chipping away at the deficit.
The Lady Doggers went on a 6-1 run, capped off by a kill from Paige Miller to trim the lead to 15-13, but back-to-back aces by Rock River upped their lead back to five. After trading several points, L-FL tied the game at 22. An ace by Cooper put the Lady Doggers up 23-22 before the Lady Longhorns scored three in a row to win the set 25-23.
“It kind of felt like we weren’t really together,” Cooper said. “We weren’t really functioning as a whole. I think that really affected how we played in the first set. The second set, we really got back into it and played our game.”
The Lady Doggers took over in the second set. The two teams traded points until the score was tied at 4, before L-FL picked up the pace and scored three in a row, capped by an ace from Forkner. Up 12-6, the Lady Doggers rattled off four points in a row, before a service error gave Rock River a point, setting the score at 16-7. To close out the set, the Lady Doggers scored nine-straight to pick up the win. The second set ended with back-to-back-to-back aces by Cooper.
L-FL continued their momentum into the third set, picking up the wire-to-wire win starting with an Ashley Riley tip. The Lady Doggers upped their lead to 10-4 and went on to score 10 in a row. Rock River added three of their own, but L-FL ended the set on a 5-0 run, winning 25-7.
Up 2-1, the Lady Doggers quickly took control of the fourth set with kills from Cooper and Amanda Riley putting the team up 10-3. Later in the set, an ace by Jordan Hunt upped the Lady Dogger lead to 20-9 and L-FL followed it up with two more points, forcing a Rock River timeout. The two teams traded points after the timeout before Kalli Nichol slammed the door shut with the match-winning kill.
“It felt good, especially since we had all that momentum coming from that second set, it was easier to carry it to the third and fourth as well,” Cooper said. “After that first set was kind of off, it was just fluid and smooth.”
Cooper was all over the court in the win, accounting for team-highs in aces (5), assists (28) and digs (19), while also contributing five kills and a block.
“I feel like I did well. I made some mistakes, everyone does,” Cooper said. “I felt like I played overall. I just need to put the ball where it needs to go a little more often and get my sets a little closer to the net so my hitters can feed off that.”
Amanda and Ashley Riley were forces at the net, with 12 kills and two blocks coming from Amanda and seven kills coming from Ashley. Ashley edged out Amanda in digs, with 15 and 14. Amanda also had two aces.
Hunt recorded five kills and nine digs in the win, with Jordyn Gaspers contributing three kills, a block and seven digs. The duo combined for three aces. Forkner tallied solid numbers across the board with three aces, four kills, three assists, two blocks and nine digs.
L-FL 3, Midwest 0
To open the tournament, L-FL picked up the win in three sets against Midwest, the fourth seed from the northeast. The Lady Doggers won the first set 25-9, before handling business in the second 25-7. Midwest kept things closer in the third, but L-FL still snagged the win, 25-18.
Six different Lady Doggers recorded an ace apiece in the win. Amanda Riley led the way in kills, with nine, followed by Hunt and Ashley Riley, who had three each. Hunt led the team in digs with six, while Amanda and Ashley combined for five. The duo also had two blocks apiece. Gaspers finished the game with two kills and two digs.
Cooper also kicked in three kills, which she paired with 14 assists, a block and four digs. Forkner helped out in the assist department, with four of her own, while accounting for a kill and two digs.
L-FL 3, Kaycee 0
The win over Midwest put L-FL in the semi-finals against Kaycee. The Lady Doggers won the first set by 14 points, 25-11. In the next two sets, L-FL picked up the win 25-13.
Similar to the rest of the weekend, Amanda Riley controlled the net, racking up 12 kills and three blocks, both of which led L-FL. She also paced the team in digs, with 12. Cooper was just behind in digs, accounting for 10. She finished the game with five kills and 19 assists.
Gaspers and Hunt both had four kills and combined for nine digs. Gaspers accounted for a block, while Hunt added an ace. Forkner led the way in aces, with two, while also having a kill, three assists, a block and four digs. Nichol and Jessy White combined for two aces, an assist and two digs.
The three wins over the weekend put the Lady Doggers at 18-9 on the season. Their win of the regional title gave them the top seed out of the east for the state tournament. L-FL’s first game of the state tournament in Casper comes Thursday at 1 p.m. against Dubois.
“Next weekend, there are some difficult teams over there (coming from the west),” Cooper said. “We’ll definitely have to stay low on defense. That’s one of our flaws I’d say. We need to get moving through the ball and they have some hard hitters over there, so they will be difficult.”